India’s “Toilet Ek Prem Katha” landed on top of the Chinese box office, on what was the second lowest grossing weekend of the year. “Toilet” earned $9.09 million, ahead of holdover Chinese fantasy romance “How Long Will I Love U” in second place.
Despite the low score, the win is a further triumph for diversity and a sign of audience development in Chinese theatres.
The odds should have been against the film, pitched as “Toilet Hero.” The story of one man’s attempt to bring sanitation to his village, the film’s central concept portrays a low development era that China left behind many years ago. And its male lead Akshay Kumar, although well loved in India, is little known in China.
Nevertheless, what Indian analysts call content-driven films (a distinction that marks them apart from packages dominated by star casting), have found real connections and growing interest in China in the past two years. Other recent wins for content-driven films include “Dangal,” “Secret Superstar,” “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” and “3 Idiots.”
“Toilet Hero” first screened at the Beijing film festival in April, where director director Shree Narain Singh, creative producer Neeraj Pandey and Shital Bhatia all attended. It was licensed by Tang Media Partners, which has corporate connections to the film’s producer Reliance Entertainment. Lian Ray Pictures was the executive distributor with China Film Group.
“Toilet” opened in second place on Friday behind “Black Water,” an actioner starring Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude van Damme, with $2.34 million, behind $2.74 million. But on Saturday “Black Water” tumbled to fifth place, allowing “Toilet” and “How Long” to rise.
“How Long” scored $8.74 million over the weekend for a $125 million cumulative after 23 days. Chinese comedy, “Happiness is Coming” opened third with $6.97 million. “Avengers: Infinity War” took fourth place with $6.57 million, ahead of “Black Water” which finished the weekend fifth with $6.26 million. “Avengers” has a cumulative of $364 million after 30 days on release.
Last week’s winner “Doraemon the Movie 2018: Nobita’s Treasure Island” fell to sixth place, with a score of $3.46 million. After 10 days, it has accumulated $30.7 million.
Only one other film, “Happy Little Submarine 20000 Leagues Under The Sea” managed more than $1 million.. It earned $1.21 million, for a 10-day cumulative of $10.8 million. Altogether, the top ten films managed a lowly aggregate of $43.7 million. This year, only the weekend prior to the Chinese New Year was lower.