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‘Warlords’ slays box office in China

Chan's action movie nets $12.2 million

HONG KONG — Peter Chan’s period actioner “The Warlords” delivered plenty of action at the B.O. in its opening weekend.

In China the film quickly notched up 90 million yuan ($12.2 million), putting it deep into hit territory. The Thursday-to-Sunday weekend total includes $1.22 million of previews from Wednesday.

Released on approximately 1,000 screens, reportedly the widest-ever release in the Middle Kingdom, pic overtook “Casino Royale” to become the sixth-biggest earner of the year — in just four days.

Pic had little competition. Foreign films are barred from releasing in December and “Warlords” saw off “One Foundation,” the local pic that had topped the Chinese chart for the previous two weeks, and “Lost in Beijing” the arthouse title that topped $1.08 million in two weeks. Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” still stands as the biggest Chinese film of the year, with a cume of $17 million, but is nearing the end of its run after a Nov. 1 preem.

In Hong Kong “Warlords” took in HK$8.5 million ($1.11 million) off four days plus previews — a strong result but not record breaking.

Total was good enough to put pic ahead of “I Am Legend” at $977,000, and “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” which gnawed its way to $168,000 and an entry in fourth place.

Hong Kong was one of the few territories where “Warlords” went head to head against “Legend” and the only Asian territory where “Warlords” came out on top — despite “Legend” star Will Smith’s trip to Hong Kong to tubthump the film.

“As a kid I loved ‘The Omega Man, so for me ‘Legend’ was always going to be the one to beat,” Chan told Variety. “Neither of them are exactly Christmas movies.”

“Warlords” opened nearly simultaneously in six Asian territories with the 38 print Innoform release through MediaCorp and Shaw Renters clocking up S$1 million ($689,000) in Singapore. In Malaysia, the 50-print Grand Brilliance release thumped its way to 1 million ringgit ($304,000), while in Indonesia it took $190,000. Pic was also released Thursday in Thailand, but weekend figures were unavailable.

Weekend cume of $14.2 million in five territories left it behind “Legend” in Asia, which clocked up $20 million at 1,300 sites in eight Asian markets — but those included releases in Japan ($6.4 million), South Korea ($6.3 million) and Taiwan ($2.4 million) which the local title did not have.

“Warlords” will open Dec. 28 in Taiwan. In South Korea, where it was acquired jointly by producer BOM and indie distrib Sponge, it will be put out through Lotte Entertainment on Jan. 31.

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