"The Continent," directed by Chinese racer

HONG KONG – “The Continent,” the nostalgia trip movie by celebrity blogger and race driver Han Han, dominated the Chinese box office at the weekend and quickly ended the reign of “Tiny Times 3.”

Released on Thursday (July 24), “The Continent” delivered a super strong first day gross of $12 million, before going on to amass $47.1 million in its four day weekend run, according to local data source Entgroup. Rentrak estimates on Sunday had put it at $45 million.

That was fractionally lower than “Tiny Times 3” had managed the previous weekend, but is still a huge number for a first time film-maker, and once again proves the power of social media in China at motivating youth audiences.

“The Continent”‘s $47 million total also holds up well in comparison with the $43.9 million scored by “Lucy,” the top film at the North American box office, though “The Continent” enjoyed four full days of release, while “Lucy” had three full days plus midnight screenings on the evening of Thurs July 24.

Chinese-made horror “The House That Never Dies” clung on to second spot and added $27.5 million over the second weekend to give a 10-day cume of $53 million (RMB324 million).

While it slipped from first to third place, “Tiny Times 3” was not far off the second place pace and added $24.7 million for an 11 day total of $75.5 million (RMB464 million). That confirms it as the biggest picture of the franchise to date.

There was no such charm for “The Magical Brush,” a Toonmax-backed Chinese-made animation, which managed $4.73 million (RMB28.3 million) from three days for fifth place.

Splitting the otherwise all-Chinese top five was “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” in fourth place in its fifth weekend of release. It managed an additional $12.7 million to give it an all-time record cume of $319 million (RMB1.96 billion). It seems certain this week to become the first film ever in China to pass the RMB2 billion milestone. Previous record holder “Avatar” managed RMB1.39 billion in 2010.

Significantly, the performance of “Transformers 4” relied less on premium priced tickets than “Avatar,” something that reflects the expansion of Chinese cinema circuits into second and third tier cities as well, perhaps, as declining prices for 3D presentations.

The mean ticket for “Transformers 4” cost RMB41 ($6.65), compares with RMB50 ($8.10 at current rates of exchange) for “Avatar” four years ago. That implies that “Avatar” sold a total of 27.8 million tickets, while “Transformers 4” has brought out a spectator total some 70% higher at 47 million.

The weekend’s two other newcomers ranked ninth and tenth in the chart. Indian action film “Dhoom 3” earned $1.35 million in three days, while Chinese romance “No Zuo No Die” managed just $700,000.

Still in the charts are: Chinese comedy “Old Boys: Way of the Dragon,” which added $3.12 million to extend its cume to $32.8 million after 18 days; Chinese comedy romance “Breakup Guru” with a further $2.61 million for an updated cume of $107 million after 31 days; and, locally-made animation “Happy Heroes 2 Qiyuan Planet Wars” with $1.56 million for a total of $4.21 million after 10 days.

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