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Zhang Yimou’s spy thriller “Cliff Walkers” strode into first place this weekend at the China box office with a $24.3 million score, bringing its cumulative total up to $118 million, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway.

It more than tripled the gross of “My Love,” the melodramatic rom-com that had outpaced it last week for first place, in what was the opening weekend for both films. The latter film came in third this week, grossing $8.9 million to bring its cume up to $113 million.

The reversal shows once more that strong word of mouth helps film burn longer and more brightly than hyped, star-driven titles, which can initially rake in huge numbers but hit a wall once the tap runs dry.

“Cliff Walkers” earned $1.7 million of its weekend score from Imax screens. That lifts the film’s Imax cumulative to $8million.

All five of the top titles this week debuted last weekend over the Labor Day holiday, dubbed by local critics the strongest May 1 release window in history due to the fierce competition between over a dozen new releases.

iQiyi’s anti-corruption crime thriller “Break Through the Darkness” came in second with $13.8 million, but its cumulative is currently only $34.6 million.

In fourth was yet another anti-corruption crime thriller: Erdong Pictures’ “The Unbeatable.” The Hong Kong drama starring Louis Koo and Tony Leung Ka-fai grossed a further $5.2 million to bring its running total to $31.7 million.

Thriller “Home Sweet Home” hit fifth, grossing $2 million, bumping its gross so far up to $32.1 million.

The total China weekend box office this weekend was $58.2 million, bringing the country’s box office so far this year up to $3.5 billion — down 9.8% from the same period in 2019. The 2021 total has been achieved with ongoing in-cinema capacity restrictions due to COVID precautions and just a handful of Hollywood titles in the content mix.