China recorded its biggest ever day of theatrical takings on Monday, the first day of the Chinese New Year.
Gross takings amounted to RMB660 million ($100.5 million) according to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. The previous highest day was July 18, 2015 according to the bureau, when takings hit RMB425 million.
Topping the chart was Stephen Chow’s “The Mermaid,” which earned $40.5 million (RMB270 million) according to the SAPPRFT. Local box office tracker Ent Group, showed that “The Mermaid” enjoyed 73,400 screenings at the nation’s theaters.
In second place was “The Man From Macau 3” (aka “From Vegas to Macau 3”) directed by Wong Jing and starring Chow Yun-fat. It achieved $25.9 million from 57,500 screenings.
Third was Soi Pou-cheang’s “The Monkey King 2” with $24.6 million from 55,800 screenings.
Chinese New Year (aka Lunar New Year and Spring Festival in different parts of Asia) has in the last couple of decades become a peak cinema going time for Chinese. This year the first day of the holidays began on Monday, which mean that many people had travelled earlier last week or over the weekend to be with their families. That allowed Monday (Feb. 8) to be a big day for the cinema and three major films – all China-Hong Kong co-productions — were released simultaneously.
Film industry regulators have also sought to use the period to maximize returns for Chinese-language films, and the extended holidays are covered by an extended “blackout period” when foreign titles cannot be given new releases.
The three newcomers almost completely halted the progress of “Kung Fu Panda 3,” which had released 10 days earlier. In fourth place it earned $2.91 million from 9,200 screenings. It now stands on an 11 day cumulative of $106 million.
That dramatic slide means there is real doubt as to whether “Kung Fu Panda 3,” a huge prestige U.S.-China co-production, will have the legs to overtake “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which came off Chinese screens on Sunday.
“Star Wars” was released on Jan. 9 and finished on $125.5 million. It dropped rapidly after a stellar $53 million opening weekend, but had little significant competition as the anticipated Chinese blockbusters all targeted the Chinese New Year crowds.
The underwhelming score for “Panda” will raise questions as to whether it should have released earlier in order to take on the slowing “Star Wars” or whether it should have avoided January and February altogether. January is usually one of the slowest months of the year at Chinese theaters. And as an official Chinese-made film, “Panda” had much more freedom to pick its own release date than any imported Hollywood movie.