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‘Sacrifice’ Reaches $150 Million Giving Strength to the China Box Office

Chinese war film "Sacrifice"
Courtesy of China Film Group

War film “The Sacrifice” was the most watched title in Chinese theaters for the third consecutive weekend. It earned $9.2 million over the frame and extended its cumulative score to $150 million, since release on Oct. 23.

Over the weekend just completed, U.S.-Canadian animation “Paw Patrol: Mighty Pups” bounced its way to second place with a $5.5 million opening.

Millennium Films’ “Hellboy” came in third with a weekend take of $4.6 million, pushing its seven-day score to $10.4 million. That compares with its $21.9 million haul last year in North America.

Fourth place, and a $3.5 million score, belonged “Find Your Voice.” The Hong Kong-U.S.-shot production stars veteran singer-actor-producer Andy Lau as a musical conductor unexpectedly arriving at a college and training the pupils for an inter-collegiate chorus competition.

It edged out long-legged patriotic omnibus film “My People, My Homeland,” which added $3.1 million in its seventh weekend. Its total is now $422 million.

Dropping out of the top five was last week’s new entrant “Back to the Wharf,” a blood-stained, tear-soaked, seaside-set crime thriller, directed by Li Xiaofeng. “Call of the Wild,” which released in North America in February for a $62.3 million score, failed to make the leading quintet in China. It managed $1.4 million from its opening weekend.

The consistency of “Sacrifice” helped keep China’s nationwide box office ticking over at $35 million per weekend, for the second weekend in a row. While that figure is a recent low, it is consistent with the time of year when there is often a lull between the holiday season in early October and the month of December which is one of the most competitive periods of the year in Chinese cinemas. In several previous Decembers, local blockbusters and Hollywood’s year-end tentpole titles are allowed three weeks to compete for audiences before restrictions come in.

A $35 million weekend looks robust given that it “Hellboy” aside included no major new release, local or foreign. Three of the top three titles in China each exceeded the $3.7 million that made “Freaky” the top performer in North America.

Year-to-date box office in China stands at $2.35 billion, according to data from exhibition and distribution consultancy Artisan Gateway. That is a 73% drop compared with the cumulative at this point last year. But with more than 90% of Chinese cinemas currently open and doing business, China’s lead over the North American market in 2020 is certain to grow.

The problem for Chinese cinemas will be sourcing enough commercially-viable content in the three months before next year’s Chinese New Year holidays, which kick off on Feb. 12, 2021.

Many of the top local films that have been produced this year have targeted the coveted festive period slot. They will go head-to-head with at least two of the Chinese-language tentpole films that were held over when this year’s festive period fell victim to the world’s first COVID19 lockdowns. With most of Hollywood’s franchise movies having postponed their releases until next year, the remainder of the 2020 Chinese box office will not get much of a lift from across the Pacific.