Though “Monster Hunt 2” ran out as winner, the box office bounty was widely spread. “Detective Chinatown 2” also earned $154 million in three days, and took the crown from “Monster Hunt” on Sunday. Data from Ent Group showed fantasy “The Monkey King 3: Kingdom of Women” earning $79.9 million, and actioner “Operation Red Sea” scoring $70.3 million. Chinese-made animation, “Boonie Bears” earned a cool $40.9 million in fifth place.
Together the top five films scored a record-breaking $543 million. The total is more than double the score achieved in the equivalent Chinese New Year weekend in either of the last two years. Last year, the session was worth $205 million. In 2016, the weekend cumulative was $224 million.
One explanation for the huge leap is that now that exhibition chains have built out multiplexes into fourth and fifth tier cities, cinema is the only viable form of modern entertainment in smaller markets. Another is that Chinese film makers have raised their game, and improved quality of their content since being shaken by a flat 12-month period between mid-2016 and summer 2017.
“Monster Hunt” enjoyed huge anticipation and record-breaking pre-sales. One of its selling points was its smack down the middle appeal to families. Many bought tickets in small groups. The star power of Tony Leung Chiu-wai gilded a picture with far-better visual qualities and an even more inoffensive story line than its 2015 predecessor, which ran on to earn $390 million.
Similarly, smart chase comedy, “Detective Chinatown” shifted a gear and relocated much of the action to a hyper-kinetic version of New York. It was rewarded with good word of mouth and the transfer of some screens away from “Monster Hunt.” Good word of mouth also lifted “Red Sea Operation” ahead of “Monkey King 3” on Sunday.
Understanding the mass appeal of local content in smaller Chinese cities, IMAX released giant screen versions of all three top films. “Monster Hunt 2” led the way with $7 million, followed by “Detective Chinatown 2” with $6.7 million. They combined for $15.1 million of IMAX box office for the 3-day weekend, IMAX’s best ever Fri/Sat/Sun result in China. Friday was the best single day result in IMAX’s history in China.