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China Box Office: Local Titles Outshine Hollywood, Aamir Kahn Efforts

New local Chinese titles beat Hollywood heavyweights “Aquaman” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” at the box office this weekend, with a remake and a panned sequel leading the pack. Meanwhile, expensive Bollywood flop “Thugs of Hindostan” failed to redeem itself in China, with a weak opening weekend marking the first Aamir Khan flop in China in years.

Chinese comedy drama “Kill Mobile,” a remake of the 2016 Italian film “Perfect Strangers,” rings in the new year at the top of the box office after a $24.3 million three-day opening weekend. The directorial debut of screenwriter Yu Miao, it tells the story of the fallout from a dinner party game in which a group of friends decides to share all the messages and calls receive over the course of an evening. Though originally scheduled to open Saturday, it hit theatres a day early due to strong pre-screening reviews and word-of-mouth.

Local fantasy sequel, “Mojin: The Worm Valley” came in second despite just two days in theatres, bringing in $14.2 million over the course of Saturday and Sunday. Nevertheless, its haul was poor compared to that of its predecessor, the 2015 hit “Mojin: The Lost Legend,” which that year broke records with a three-day intake of $93.4 million, marking what was then the third largest opening for a mainland film. It also became the highest-ever grossing local language IMAX film at that time.

The “Worm Valley” sequel has been viciously dismissed by Chinese commentators online, receiving a dismal 3.6 out of 10 aggregate rating from nearly 11,000 users on popular platform Douban. Several dubbed it the worst film of the year. “These awful films of yours are just making more space for ‘Aquaman,’” said one popular comment, while another noted blithely: “Watching this felt like dying.”

Meanwhile, the Jason Momoa-starring superhero film — now in its fourth week in mainland theatres, having opened in China two weeks before the U.S. — continued to draw viewers. It came in third with $11.3 million. “Spider-Verse” trailed behind with $8.4 million.

The Chinese road trip comedy “The Morning After” opened on Saturday and came in fifth with $4.97 million. Despite just two days in theatres and poor reviews, it still narrowly narrowly beat Bollywood vehicle “Thugs of Hindostan,” which took in just $4.68 million in its three-day opening weekend.

Despite being one of the most expensive Indian movies ever made, “Thugs” was so universally reviled in its native country that Khan has even publicly apologized to audiences for its awfulness. Nearly a quarter of the film was cut for the China release, which runs 43 minutes shorter, at a leaner 124 minutes and has been re-edited to give Khan more screen time.

The star had criss-crossed the country for 11 days doing promos for the film, according to Chinese movie site Mtime. He snapped selfies with fans, learned Chinese Internet slang, ate dumplings on the winter solstice, and even spent Christmas Eve on stage in Beijing flogging the flick — apparently to no avail. The flop breaks his winning streak in China, where his films “Dangal,” “Secret Superstar” and “3 Idiots” had hit box office gold.

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