In another quiet weekend in China, Korean War blockbuster “The Battle at Lake Changjin” was at last eased out of the top five for the first time since its Sept. 30 debut. It was replaced by a new Korean War film with lower production values.
“Crossing the Yalu River” from China Media Group debuted Friday to a $3 million three-day opener, coming in fourth. It stars frequent portrayer of Mao Zedong Tang Guoqiang as the controversial leader and Sun Weimin as Zhou Enlai.
Meanwhile, Wanda Pictures’ “Fireflies in the Sun,” an adaptation of the 2002 Nick Cassavetes film “John Q,” opened first with $54.2 million, according to data from Artisan Gateway. It tells the story about a family that lived a poor but happy life until the son has an accident and needs an expensive treatment, which his father does whatever it takes to obtain.
The original film starring Denzel Washington was not especially well received and grossed $102 million globally. Variety’s review at the time called it “a rare case of blatant political propaganda in a major Hollywood picture… bubbling over with melodrama and extreme situations” that served as a “shamelessly manipulative commercial on behalf of national health insurance.” Its black-and-white, overwrought nature likely made it an attractive choice for adaptation to the China market, where high medical costs are a major source of social discontent.
Strangely, “Fireflies” is billed as a sequel to the 2019 thriller “Sheep Without a Shepherd” — itself an adaptation of the 2013 Indian film “Drishyam” — capitalizing on that title’s popularity in name alone as “Sheep Without a Shepherd 2” without sharing any plot elements. Although it also stars Chopstick Brothers singer Xiao Yang (“Detective Chinatown 1 & 2”), it otherwise doesn’t share a cast. It is instead directed by Dai Mo and features Hong Kong’s Simon Yam and Janice Man alongside him.
Both films were produced by “Detective Chinatown” franchise director Chen Sicheng.
Second place title “I Am What I Am,” a family-friendly animation about a boy who aspires to be a top-notch lion dancer, opened second with just $7.5 million. The Cheering Times Media production came in fourth during the week prior off $2.6 million in previews, and has now hit a cume of $10.2 million.
In third place, is the Emperor Motion Pictures blockbuster “Schemes in Antiques,” which grossed a further $3.6 million to bring its cume since its Dec. 3 release up to $61.6 million.
Maoyan Pictures’ dark comedy “Be Somebody” came in fifth with $2.5 million. It has now grossed $139 million after 39 days in theaters.
The China box office so far in 2021 is 26.3% lower than at the same point in 2019, Artisan Gateway reported.