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China Box Office: ‘Looking Up’ Is Surprise Weekend Winner Ahead of ‘Lion King’

Actor and comedian Deng Chao underlined his enduring popularity with mainstream Chinese audiences by delivering a surprise No. 1 box-office hit in “Looking Up” over the weekend. It scored $38.6 million in its opening frame, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway, and displaced “The Lion King” from its perch.

“Looking Up” is a family comedy about a father’s close and pedagogical relationship with his son. The narrative stretches from the son’s unconventional childhood to his meditative moments while in space as an astronaut.

Deng (“Shadow,” “Duckweed,” “The Mermaid”) stars as the father. He co-directed the film with Yu Baimei from a script by Yu (“The Breakup Guru”).

The film had an unconventional Thursday opening, when it scored $9.21 million. Friday was worth $9.85 million, while Saturday and Sunday each delivered scores of close to $15 million. After four days, its cumulative score is $62 million, according to Artisan Gateway.

The Lion King,” which released in China a week ahead of its North American and global rollouts, earned $20.8 million – a 62% tumble from its opening weekend – for a 10-day cumulative of $97.1 million. “Lion King” shared Imax screens with “Looking Up” (and next week will share with “Nezha” as well), and has scored $2.6 million to date on the giant-screen circuit in China.

Third place belonged to Hong Kong action film “The White Storm 2: Drug Lords” in its third weekend of release. “White Storm” picked up $13.9 million, for a total of $172 million since its July 5 debut.

An animated version of a classic Chinese tale, “Nezha” opened in fourth place with $8.6 million. As is typical of films targeting young audiences, it played quietly on Friday, before moving up the rankings on Saturday and Sunday. It is directed by Yang Yu, who also goes by the name Jiaozi, or “dumpling” in English.

The chart results underline the powerful position of online ticketing firms in Chinese releasing. Looking Up” is backed by Maoyan, while “Nezha” is backed by Enlight, Maoyan’s major shareholder.

“Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which opened fast but dropped quickly too, added $3.6 million over the weekend to hit $201 million after 10 days.

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