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China’s ‘The Eight Hundred’ Hits $40 Million Box Office Total on Opening Day

The Eight Hundred
Courtesy of Huayi Bros.

Chinese war film, “The Eight Hundred” achieved a cumulative box office score of more than $40 million by late afternoon on its opening day, Friday.

By 5pm local time, the film had notched up RMB62.7 million or $9.04 million, according to data from China Box Office and Ent Group. By 6pm, the Friday score had risen to RMB83 million ($12 million). That added to $31.8 million of previews earned on Friday last week and the days between Monday and Wednesday this week.

The film enjoyed an 86% market share. “Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone,” in its restored, 4K and Imax version, ranked second, with approximately 6%, and Wednesday release “Onward” was in third place with a 2% share.

Estimates of where box office for “The Eight Hundred” might end the weekend range from $60 million to $200 million. Those are numbers akin to pre-coronavirus days and need to be treated with caution.

Chinese cinemas have been open since July 20, after nearly six months closed due to the coronavirus outbreak and extreme hesitation on the part of local authorities.

Some surveys had suggested that Chinese audiences would flock back into theaters as soon as doors opened. Instead, business over the first four weekends was steady, rather than spectacular, and driven by particular pieces of older content, notably the rereleased “Interstellar” and “Sorcerer’s Stone,” which first played in Chinese cinemas when the country was only entering the multiplex era.

“The Eight Hundred” is different. It is effectively the first large-scale, local-language picture of the year. Many of the other Chinese tentpole movies of 2020 had hoped for a lucrative Chinese New Year release in January, but were stymied by the sudden coronavirus lockdowns.

The film, by Guan Hu, a director best known for his 2015 effort “Mr Six,” has been on the public radar even longer. It had been set as the opening film of the Shanghai Film Festival in June last year. And distributors had begun the marketing campaign for its mid-2019 commercial release, when it was abruptly pulled for political reasons.

All those problems now seem to be behind it. Reviews on fan and ticketing sites are predominantly positive. And according to Ent Group, some 5 million people have already bought tickets.