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China Box Office: ‘Sheep Without a Shepherd,’ ‘Skyfire’ Lead Local Film Dominance

Sheep Without a Shepherd
Courtesy of Hengye Pictures

Locally made films “Sheep Without a Shepherd,” “Skyfire” and “Gone With the Light” dominated weekend takings at the mainland Chinese box office. Hollywood’s holdovers were consigned to the lesser rankings.

“Sheep Without a Shepherd” is a remake of 2013 Indian thriller “Drishyam” and tells the story of a man trying to cover up for his daughter’s killing of a police officer’s son. It stars Xiao Yang, Tan Zhuo and Joan Chen, and was directed by Malaysia’s Sam Quah.

Directed by the U.K.’s Simon West, “Skyfire” is an action film about holidaymakers caught up in a volcanic eruption while on a tropical island. “Skyfire,” which premiered at the recent film festival in Hainan (which markets itself as China’s tropical island), opened commercially last Thursday. It topped the rankings with an opening day take of $4.25 million.

“Shepherd” took the more conventional route with a Friday opening and held the top spot from Friday to Sunday, with a three-day total of $32 million, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway. After four days on release, “Skyfire” had earned $20.1 million.

“Gone With the Light,” a Chinese romance with sci-fi elements, took third place with $8.4 million. Directed by Dong Runnian, it stars popular comedian Huang Bo, Wang Luodan, Tan Zhuo (again) and Huang Lu.

Hollywood sequel “Jumanji: The Next Level” earned $5.8 million over the weekend to lift its 10-day cumulative score to $38.4 million. The longer-running “Frozen 2” did most of its business on Saturday and Sunday and scored $5.4 million. After 24 days in Chinese theaters it has accumulated $112 million.

“Skyfire” has been pitched in some quarters as China’s first disaster movie, though that is scarcely a description approved of by Chinese authorities, who prefer the popular new genre to be called “rescue films.” Recently released examples are “The Captain,” which depicts the no-lives-lost heroism of a Chinese airline pilot after a passenger plane’s windshield is blown out at altitude, and fact-based “The Bravest,” which portrayed heroics after the oil spill at the Xingang oil facility near the North Korean border. More films in the same patriotic vein can be expected next month at Chinese New Year, including one bluntly called “The Rescue.”

In the near term, the box office chart is set for a further change later this week with the release of several titles competing in the lucrative end-of-year slot. Feng Xiaogang’s “Only Cloud Knows,” “Ip Man 4: The Finale,” “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and propaganda film “The First People’s City Founded by the Chinese Communist Party” all release on Dec. 20.

Expressed in dollars, aggregate box office so far this year is running 4.9% ahead of 2018, with Artisan Gateway reporting $8.74 billion total to date. The China Movie Data Information Network reported that in local currency terms Chinese box office passed RMB60 billion ($8.57 billion at current exchange rates) on Dec. 6, two dozen days earlier than last year.