HONG KONG – “The Continent,” a nostalgic road trip movie, roared its way to the top of the Chinese box office charts on Thursday. It scored an opening day gross of $12.0 million (RMB74.0 million).

The super strong debut is another victory for a first-time film-maker hailing from a new generation of Chinese talent. It puts the film comfortably on course for an opening weekend in excess of $50 million.

The director is Han Han, a 1980s-born celebrity best known as a blogger, novelist and professional racing car driver. He also sings.

The film is the tale of three young men from an East Chinese island, who take a road trip and along the way fulfil some of their personal goals. Unsurprisingly the film features some race driving as well as helicopters and a yacht.

Released in a month when Chinese regulators are sheltering local films from fresh Hollywood competition, “The Continent” knocked “Tiny Times 3.0” off its recently acquired perch at the top of the box office.

“Tiny Times” is a movie series created by Guo Jingming, a direct contemporary of Han Han and another Internet publishing sensation. The first two parts of “Tiny Times” hit Chinese theatres midway through 2013, a year when the newcomers and their big data devouring producers, deposed the supposedly sure-fire big name directors. “Tiny Times 3.0” was released last week and grossed $50 million in its opening weekend, rising to a cumulative $67.6 million after seven days.

The recent omens have been good for “The Continent.” A trailer for the film released in May earned 5 million downloads, while Han Han has a personal online following of some 38 million.