Chinese romance film “Love You Forever” earned a stunning $38.3 million on Tuesday, its opening day in mainland China cinemas. That figure is the highest single day score achieved by any film worldwide in 2020.
The film tells the story of a man who is able to go back in time to save the tragically-shortened life of his young lover, but his ability comes with a heavy price. It features rising Taiwan star Lee Hongchi (“Thanatos, Drunk,” “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” “Cities of Last Things”) and Li Yitong (TV’s “Legend of the Condor”).
“Love You Forever” was released to coincide with Chinese Valentine’s Day, otherwise known as Qixi Festival, a moveable feast that takes place on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar.
For most of the past seven months, Chinese cinemas were closed due to the coronavirus that broke out at Chinese New Year, and the disease control measures that followed. Theaters re-opened on July 20 and initially began operation by showing a mix of foreign and local reruns, achieving modest results. Fresh, local titles now appear to have lifted the sector out of its slump and brought audiences back in substantial numbers.
Temporarily given some of the screens that had been showing “The Eight Hundred,” “Love You Forever” was watched by 7.46 million spectators in a single day. It played some 140,000 screening sessions and earned a per session average of $273, according to data from China Box Office / Ent Group.
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Figures at midday (local time) on Wednesday showed that many screens had been returned to “The Eight Hundred” and that the fact-based war film had reclaimed its position at the top of the box office chart. “Love You Forever” claimed a 24% market share on Wednesday, against 62% for “The Eight Hundred.”
After five days of regular release and several days of previews, “The Eight Hundred” now has a cumulative gross of $165 million.
“Love You Forever” is the second theatrical feature by female director Yao Yoyo, who previously made 2017 title “Yesterday Once More,” and before that web film “Back In Time,” as well as a series of micro-movies.
The movie seems well-suited for the current troubled times, and as a stimulus to mainland Chinese audiences, who expect films to run high with emotion. “Pure love is very precious,” Yao told Variety. “I want to believe in that again. And I want audiences to believe that too.”
She says that the film was not conceived for the post-coronavirus era, but rather is a 2018 production, that started out as an adaptation of a novella, “Wait Till Nothing Left” by Zheng Zhi. It was brought to Yao by veteran producer Bill Kong (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Monster Hunt”) and she co-wrote the screenplay.
“I did not set out to make people cry. Actually, I wanted to give people the time to digest the emotions,” Yao said. “The man tries to understand the woman’s point of view. And with foreknowledge of the consequences, he makes his choices.”
Yao says she is looking to change register with her next project, and that her next movie will likely be one that she conceived from scratch.
“Love You Forever” is a Beijing Asian Union Culture Media Investment C2M Pictures, Edko Films, Irresistible Alpha, and Edko (Beijing) Films presentation. Edko is handling international sales at Hong Kong’s FilMart, which got under way on Wednesday.