John Woo’s ‘The Crossing’ Launches Crucial December at the Chinese Box Office

John Woo’s “The Crossing” part I, kicked off in fine style the crucially busy December period at the Chinese box office.

Opening midweek, the star-studded period romantic drama grossed RMB30.1 million ($4.90 million) on Tuesday Dec. 2, and a further RMB11.8 million on Wednesday, for a two day opening score of RMB41.8 million ($6.82 million).

Distributor Le Vision Pictures said that the picture accounted for 58% of box office receipts on Tuesday.

That should be enough to depose “Interstellar” which held on to top spot at the weekend from Hong Kong director Pang Ho-cheung’s comedy drama “Women Who Flirt,” which opened with $13.2 million between Friday and Sunday.

The Crossing” is presented by producer Beijing Galloping Horse, LeVision Pictures, China Film Group as well as Huayi Brothers. LeVision is reported to have guaranteed a cumulative gross box office of RMB800 million for the two parts of “The Crossing.” The second instalment will release in 2015.

The big budget film, which stars Zhang Ziyi, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Song Hye-kyo at the head of an ensemble pan-Asian cast, is the story of people’s lives ripped apart by the revolutionary period at the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Many of them are on board the steam ship Taiping which sank taking emigrants from China to Keelung in Taiwan. The screenplay is by Wang Huiling (“Lust Caution,” “Red Cliff”.)

December is usually the busiest month for cinema going in China as the calendar year end brings out parties of corporate backed outings and holders of vouchers tickets anxious to use them before expiry. This in turn usually means that releases of Chinese films are given priority by the country’s media regulators and major Hollywood films can continue their runs – “Interstellar” was on 7,000 before the release of “The Crossing” — but that new ones will have to wait till January. Korea’s “Roaring Currents” is the only non-Chinese-language film to get a release the rest of this month.

This week will also see the release of Chinese-made romance “Fleet of Time” and action adventure “Tomb Robber.”

The blockbuster titles hit Chinese screens slightly later: Jiang Wen’s “Gone With The Bullets” releases on Dec. 18, followed shortly after by Tsui Hark’s war action drama “The Taking of Tiger Mountain” (aka “Tracks in the Snowy Forest”) on Dec. 24.

The joker in the pack is the Christmas Day release of a converted 3D version of Stephen Chow’s frenetic 2004 comedy “Kung Fu Hustle.” It is currently unclear if, having seen the film repeatedly on multiple platforms, audiences will stay away, or whether they will buy into its familiarity and relief from the high-mindedness on offer elsewhere.

Even before the anticipated December bonanza, Chinese box office this year is 20% ahead of last year’s 12 month total. Cumulative gross to Nov. 20 stood at RMB26 billion ($4.23 billion). The full year 2013 total was 21.7 billion ($3.54 billion).

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