Female-led volleyball drama “Leap” hit China with an $8.2 million opening day Friday, narrowly topping the premiere-day box office haul of Disney’s “Mulan” earlier this month, according to industry tracker Maoyan.
Both films star China-born Singaporean actress Gong Li, who plays a powerful witch character in “Mulan” and the hard-driving, real-life head coach of the Chinese women’s national volleyball team Lang Ping in “Leap.” In contrast, “Mulan” brought in $8.1 million in its opening Friday performance. Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” made $8.9 million in its Sept. 4 debut. War epic “The Eight Hundred,” on the other hand, raked in $21 million in its Aug. 21 bow.
“Leap’s” debut coincided with the first weekend that cinemas were allowed to sell 75% of available tickets rather than 50%.
Directed by Hong Kong helmer Peter Ho-Sun Chan, “Leap” also opened in the U.S. on Friday. It is set for a limited release across 80 theaters in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Irvine and other major cities. Jetsen Huashi Media has distribution rights in North America, Australia and New Zealand.
The U.S. box office has remained minuscule as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the country, with case numbers in the nation rising Friday to top 7 million. The nationwide cumulative box office for the top 10 films came to an average of just $1.1 million a day in the week leading up to Wednesday. Chinese films typically have not gained much traction in the States, even in non-pandemic times.
Chan is best known for films such as “Comrades: Almost a Love Story” (1996), “Perhaps Love” (2005), “The Warlords” (2010) and “Dearest” (2014). “Leap” tells the story of the Chinese women’s volleyball team over the course of 35 years through their ups and downs as they won world championships and Olympic titles, honing in in particular on their head coach Lang Ping (Gong Li), nicknamed the “Iron Hammer.”
The film was originally set to premiere over the highly competitive Chinese New Year holiday in January until all titles were pushed back as exhibitors shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic. It was then set to debut on Oct. 1, the first day of the National Day holiday, but edged its release date a few days forward forward to maintain a competitive edge against other top titles that will duke it out over what is typically one of China’s busiest movie-going weeks of the year.
Among the upcoming films set for release in China are Stanley Tong’s “Vanguard,” starring Jackie Chan, on Sept. 30. Hotly anticipated animated movie “Jiang Ziya: Legend of Deification” and patriotic “My People, Homeland” will debut on Oct. 1.