China’s “Wolf Warriors 2” was the top film at the worldwide box office over the weekend, driven by a massive $127 million opening in its home territory. That was about $50 million ahead of second-place “Dunkirk,” which earned $73 million globally.
“Warriors 2” is a contemporary war actioner directed by and starring former martial artist Wu Jing (who also goes by the name Jacky Wu). With assistance from the Russo brothers and an international cast that includes Frank Grillo and Celina Jade, it is a sequel to a similar Wu-centered effort in 2015, which grossed $89 million.
The sequel’s opening performance not only beat the lifetime score of the predecessor movie; it also won the box office battle with Chinese propaganda movie “The Founding of an Army,” which showcases the creation of the People’s Liberation Army in 1927 and grossed $24.8 million, according to data from Ent Group.
Both films were released Thursday. Though “Army” had the initial advantage, with 68,000 screening sessions that day, compared to 38,000 for “Warriors 2,” it immediately trailed the more modern story. “Warriors 2” opened with $15.1 million, versus $5.62 million for “Army.”
Both films expanded thereafter, with “Warriors 2” enjoying as many as 126,000 sessions on Saturday and “Army” peaking at 94,000 on Friday. The momentum was with “Warriors 2,” which earned $31.2 million on Friday, $45.9 million on Saturday, and climbed to $49.2 million on Sunday.
Including its Thursday score, “Warriors 2” achieved $146 million in four days. “Army” finished with $30.5 million in four days.
While “Warriors 2” missed out on any kind of opening-day record, the Saturday and Sunday daily scores rank as the sixth and seventh biggest single day performances of all time in China. They also make the film the biggest Chinese-made hit this year and the first to exceed $100 million, both outside of the Chinese New Year period.
“Army” benefits from a pop star cast, spectacular staging, and the services of Hong Kong’s Andrew Lau (“Infernal Affairs”) as director. But it could not hide its status as a state-backed propaganda title harking back to historical events that hold little immediate relevance to China’s youth-skewing cinema audience.
(“Army” had a glitzy local debut in Hong Kong on Sunday night, with an audience full of old guard Hong Kong leaders. Peter Lam, chairman of distributor Media Asia, optimistically promised to lift the film’s box-office performance.)
All other titles scrambled for the few remaining screens. China is currently in its annual summer blackout period, when no major Hollywood movies can be released. That means those films crushed by the duel between “Warriors 2” and “Army” were largely Chinese titles.
Holdover “Despicable Me” earned $3.33 million in its fourth week for $146 million after 24 days. Chinese animation “Dear Tutu” took fourth spot with $2.66 million in three days.
Another Chinese animation, “Tofu,” limped to $2.22 million on its opening. Holdover “Brotherhood of Blades” added $1.97 million after a steep fall. After 12 days, its cumulative is $38 million. No other title reached $1 million over the weekend.