Donnie Yen-starring action thriller “Raging Fire” roared to the top this weekend in China with a $37.2 million opening, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway, but its sales were far from enough to revive China’s slumping ticket sales.
Yen was last seen on Chinese screens last year in Disney’s “Mulan,” which performed worse than expected. But he proved that he remains enough of a box office draw to pull his film to the top, despite an otherwise slow weekend.
“Raging Fire” is the final movie from iconic “White Storm” helmer Benny Chan, who died last summer. It will soon blaze through to North America, where it is distributed by Well Go USA Entertainment and will hit screens on Aug. 13 after an outing as the centerpiece selection of the New York Asian Film Festival.
Second this weekend was youth romantic drama “Upcoming Summer,” a new release from Huayi Brothers that debuted to $20.6 million. The feature stars up-and-comer Wendy Zhang Zifeng, who in April anchored the coming-of-age film “Sister,” lifting it to the unexpected heights of a $128 million gross.
Local animated sequel “White Snake 2: Green Snake” from Light Chaser Pictures grossed $10.7 million to hit third, bringing its cume up to $56.8 million. “Chinese Doctors,” Bona Film Group’s patriotic retelling of the pandemic in Wuhan, came in fourth with $5.1 million, hoisting sales up to $192 million. Alpha Pictures children’s animation “Agent Backkom: Kings Bear” grossed $1.6 million to hit fifth. It has now brought in $8.5 million.
No other films this weekend broke the $1 million mark, meaning that total sales nationwide for the three-day period came to only $77 million.
These levels of sales are far from enough to pull China out of its ongoing box office slump. Ticket buying has slowed over a month of political propaganda films and an unofficial ban on foreign imports, leaving top tentpoles like “Black Widow” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy” out in the cold without even a release date, let alone a release.
China’s box office is down 17.2% from the same point in the year in pre-pandemic 2019, currently clocking at $4.77 billion, significantly less than its $5.75 billion 2019 level. While authorities have greenlit the release of a little-known British Christmas sequel about a cat (“A Christmas Gift From Bob”), it hasn’t formally approved any notable Hollywood blockbusters in weeks.