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China Box Office: New Animations No Match For ‘Nezha’ Domination

Chinese animation “Nezha” continued its run as China’s biggest hit of the summer, maintaining its top spot at the box office even 25 days into its run with a weekend gross of $41.2 million. The tally made it this weekend’s fourth highest grossing film worldwide.

Meanwhile, two other new animated titles performed unremarkably. The flop of Tencent spinoff company China Literature Media’s new animation “The King’s Avatar: For the Glory” on its debut made it clear that just trotting out any old locally-made cartoon based on a well-known IP isn’t enough to spark “Nezha”-style box office domination. It grossed just $9.3 million, according to data from the Artisan Gateway consultancy, despite being an adaptation of a very popular online novel about an professional e-sports player that has top ratings for fan engagement. This made it fifth at the China box office and fourteenth globally. 

Rovio Entertainment’s “The Angry Birds Movie 2” also swooped into China, ranking fourth with a $9.8 million opening. This was more than the approximately $3 million that Paramount’s lackluster animation “Wonder Park” earned in its April debut, but less than “Toy Story 4”, which brought in $13.2 million in its first three days in June.  The China figures for “Birds,” which were in the same ballpark as its U.S. haul of $10.5 million, helped the film pull off a fifth place finish at the global box office.

Neither, of course, is anywhere close to dreaming of “Nezha” levels of success. With a cumulative score of $587 million, the emo take on the origin story of the eponymous popular folk religion deity has now climbed the ranks to become the mainland’s fourth biggest title of all time. The film was recently granted a theatrical extension, and so will remain in theaters until Sept. 26. 

“Nezha” is projected to rake in a total of $663 million (RMB4.67 billion) over the full course of its run, eking in just above February’s RMB4.65 billion-grossing “The Wandering Earth” to become the country’s second biggest earner in history. It will also release theatrically in North America, Australia (Aug. 23) and New Zealand (Aug. 28).

In a particularly slow summer, all other cineplex offerings have apparently held little charm for audiences: even including “Nezha,” the total weekend gross of the top five films didn’t break $100 million. Overall, Artisan Gateway figures show China’s box office running 2.8% behind 2018’s course. 

The second most popular film at the weekend was the Wanda Pictures-backed “Bodies at Rest,” which took in $18.1 million in its debut, making the Hong Kong-Chinese co-production the seventh largest film worldwide. The crime thriller was the opening film at the Hong Kong International Film Festival earlier this year, and is directed by Finnish Hollywood helmer Renny Harlin (“Die Hard 2”). It tells the story of a forensic expert and his assistant working in a morgue on Christmas eve who are attacked by masked villains wanting one of the bodies there.

Bona Film Group’s patriotic fire fighter rescue movie “The Bravest” came in third in China with $16.7 million, bringing its cume up to $204 million so far. Also backed by Sony, it was the eighth biggest grosser globally.

In apparent hopes of paving the way for “The King’s Avatar: For the Glory,” Tencent Video also released a live-action web series adaptation of the same novel earlier this month. The Tencent conglomerate hopes to develop properties that criss-cross its different entertainment divisions to exploit synergies between web novels, web series, gaming and film, but it appears that the strategy hasn’t quite paid off in this case. The film adaptation has been rated just 5.7 out of 10 by users on the influential Douban platform, and 8.8 out of 10 on the more populist Maoyan ticketing site. The 40-episode web series of 45-minute installments appears to have fared slightly better, but still netted just a 7.0 on Douban.

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