The Monkey King

HONG KONG — “The Monkey King,” a vfx-heavy re-telling of part of the classic “Journey To The West” tale dominated the Chinese New Year box office — and took top spot in the global rankings.

According to local sources, the picture claimed RMB216 million or US$35.4 million in its first two days of release (Jan. 31-Feb 1). Data is necessarily preliminary as China is largely closed for the prolonged holiday period. Overseas tracking agency Rentrak estimates a $46 million three day (Friday-Sunday) cumulative total in the seven territories that “Monkey King” opened.

The Hong Kong-made production directed by Soi Pou-cheang and starring Donnie Yen, Chow Yun-fat and Aaron Kwok, enjoyed a 30% market share and beat off TV show adaptation “Dad, Where Are We Going?” Released only in China “Dad” scored RMB171 million ($28 million) to Saturday according to local data, and $34 million through Sunday, according to Rentrak estimates.

The film scored particularly strongly on the huge circuit of Imax screens in China. Opening on 140 Imax Middle Kingdom screens it kicked off with a $1.8 million opening day, beating the $1.5 million score of “Iron Man 3.” Imax estimates that it will complete the weekend with a $4.5 million cume.

“Specifically, Friday is now our biggest Imax day ever, for either a Hollywood or Chinese title,” Imax Entertainment CEO Greg Foster, told Variety.

The Rentrak worldwide data also underlines the growing importance of the Chinese box office. The top film in North America, “Ride Along” this weekend grossed $12.3 million according to Rentrak.

Chinese New Year, which is tied to the lunar new year and shifts between January and February, is a high point in the Chinese cinema year, along with the pre-Christmas month of December.

After a relatively weak December 2013, analysts will be carefully scrutinizing the overall size of the two week Chinese New Year box office period – not just the individual winners.

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