Peter Chan’s volleyball drama “Leap” has jumped above its competition in China this weekend with a $24.6 million three-day debut, highlighting Chinese audiences’ continued preference for well-crafted local titles, according to data from the Maoyan industry tracker.
The score is higher than the $23 million opening of Disney’s “Mulan” the weekend of Sept. 11, but less than that of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” which opened the first week of the month with $32.3 million. “Leap” benefits, however, from an assist of new government regulations that took effect Friday allowing cinemas to now sell 75% of available tickets rather than only 50%, in a relaxation of previous coronavirus prevention measures.
Both “Mulan” and “Leap” star China-born Singaporean actress Gong Li, who plays a powerful witch character in the former and the hard-driving, real-life head coach of the Chinese women’s national volleyball team Lang Ping in the latter.
Around $1.2 million of earnings for “Leap” came from 663 IMAX screens. The title also premiered Friday in the U.S. via a limited theatrical run across 80 theaters in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Irvine and other cities. It is not even listed, however, among the Box Office Mojo database, implying that receipts may be minuscule amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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“Leap” was initially set to premiere over the competitive Chinese new year holiday back in January, but was pushed back when cinemas shut down because of the pandemic. It was then re-scheduled for Oct. 1 to kick off China’s National Day holiday, typically one of the busiest movie-going periods of the year. A crowded field caused it to pull back to Sept. 25, a date where it faced no other strong new titles.
Its closest competitor turned out to be the tenacious war epic “The Eight Hundred,” which grossed $8.39 million. That film is now the world’s highest earning title of the year, with cumulative earnings of $441 million so far.
Trailing behind with less than a fourth that weekend tally was “Tenet,” which grossed $1.56 million. It has now earned a total of $64.6 million in China.
“Mulan” came in fifth just below with $1.18 million in its third theatrical weekend. It has now grossed $40 million in China. Maoyan currently projects it will earn just a few hundred thousand dollars more in the key territory over the full course of its run — less than half of its current projection for “Leap,” which it estimates will nab around $106 million.
The only other notable film opening Friday was the 1999 Japanese title “Kikujiro,” starring, written and directed by Takeshi Kaneshiro — a road movie about a young boy who sets out on his own in to find his mother. Chinese censors cut a minute from its runtime, apparently removing a short scene where an adult character asks the boy to remove his underpants in order to be taken to see his mother. China has no film rating system.
It debuted fifth with receipts of $876,000 — already far exceeding its original 2000 North American gross of $200,920.
The competitive National Day holiday is set to kick off mid-week, with Stanley Tong’s “Vanguard” starring Jackie Chan premiering Sept. 30, Enlight Media’s animated “Jiang Ziya: Legend of Deification” and Beijing Culture’s patriotic “My People, My Homeland” set to hit the next day.