As China gears up for a big political anniversary and national holiday, its box office has been dominated by innocuous animal films and local fare capable of keeping censors happy but unable to make that huge of a splash. None of the top four weekend titles has scored more than 7 out of 10 on the key user-review platform Douban.
“Little Q,” a heartwarming dog film from Hong Kong, led China’s weekend box office with a $9.6 million debut, despite a delayed release date and continued tensions between the mainland and the special administrative region.
The film was directed by Wing-cheong Law, a longtime collaborate of Johnnie To and winner of a 2002 Golden Horse Award for best editing on “Running Out of Time 2,” and stars veteran Hong Kong actor Simon Yam. The movie is based on a true story retold in a Japanese novel by Ryohei Akimoto and Kengo Ishiguro, which was adapted into “Quill,” a 2004 Japanese film, and a TV drama. It tells the story of a famous pastry chef who is going blind and the golden Labrador guide dog that saves him from suicide. “Little Q’s” debut was pushed back from a planned debut in late July after Yam was stabbed onstage at a promotional event in south China, apparently by a mentally ill attacker.
Chinese fantasy action film “Jade Dynasty” took second place in its second weekend in theaters with $5.7 million, figures from consultancy Artisan Gateway showed. It had grossed a cumulative $51.5 million (RMB367 million) as of late Monday afternoon in China, according to data from Maoyan, largely on the back of the popularity of its pop idol stars, Sean Xiao Zhan and Meng Meiqi. Xiao in particular is riding a wave of attention as the “little fresh meat” face of the moment, thanks to a recent turn in the hit costume drama “The Untamed.”
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Chinese comedy “The Last Wish,” about a young man with a terminal illness seeking to lose his virginity before he dies, came in third with a haul of $5.6 million.
Bona Film Group’s “Mao Zedong 1949” took in $6.7 million in its opening weekend, according to Artisan Gateway. The historical film stars sexagenarian Tang Guoqiang, an actor known for playing historical figures such as Zhuge Liang and rulers like the Ming dynasty’s Yongle emperor. The second of three patriotic films put out by Bona for the upcoming 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic, it is projected by Maoyan to bring in $11 million (RMB78.3 million) overall — much less than the first installment of the trilogy, firefighting rescue film “The Bravest.” That film pulled in $236 million (RMB1.68 billion) last month thanks to a sexier topic.
In fifth place was Chinese animation “The Legend of Hei,” which brought in $4.7 million. The film brings to life the story of a big-eyed black cat made popular by social media emojis, and has grossed a cumulative $39.9 million since its early September debut.
Thai romantic comedy “Friend Zone,” one of Thailand’s most successful films so far this year, saw a measure of China success in its debut weekend. It has grossed $3.7 million (RMB26.6 million) so far on the mainland and is predicted to bring in about twice that over the course of its run. It was acquired for China by Maoyan and Edko Films for Hong Kong.