Sentimental local drama film “Lighting up the Stars” topped the mainland China box office with a solid $31.8 million opening weekend. It underlined the cinema reopening and industry recovery process that has been underway since the beginning of June.
The film tells the tale of an ex-con funeral director who has a chance meeting with an orphaned girl. The encounter changes both of their lives.
Produced by Lian Ray Pictures, it is directed by Liu Jiangjiang and stars Zhu Yilong as the man and Yang Enyou as the girl. It earned $31.8 million (RMB213 million) between Friday and Sunday and, including previews from a week earlier, finished the weekend with $37 million (RMB248 million) according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway.
“Jurassic World: Dominion” earned $12.5 million in its third weekend of release. The figure was a drop of nearly 50%, but it was still good enough for second place. Since release on June 10, the film has accumulated $112 million (RMB768 million).
That makes the film the fifth highest grossing film of the year and the top Hollywood movie this year in China.
Chinese youth drama “One Week Friends” managed $2.5 million in its second weekend. That compares with $5.8 million in its two-day opening a week earlier. After nine days in cinemas the film has a cumulative of $12.5 million.
“The Bad Guys,” in fourth place, earned $1.9 million. Since its release at the end of April, it has accumulated $49.4 million.
The Chinese box office took a steep tumble from the beginning of March when COVID cases began to rise and China’s zero tolerance policy caused cities to be locked down and cinemas to be closed. That in turn caused many local films to cancel their planned theatrical outings. “Lighting Up the Stars” had originally been scheduled to release in April.
Now, more than 80% of cinemas are operational again. And as more cinemas have reopened box office is has begun trending upwards.
June is on course to be the top grossing month since February, which always swelled by Chinese New Year releases. It was the first month since February to pass the psychologically-significant RMB1 billion total and local media have cheered the good start to the unofficial summer season that runs from June through August.
Part of the summer season, somewhere between four and six weeks, is normally reserved for releases of Chinese-language films and is described either as a ‘blackout period’ or as ‘Chinese film promotion month.’ It is currently unclear whether the Chinese-only season will happen this year.
The argument in its favor would be to point out the backlog of local and Hong Kong films that had their releases delayed. The argument in favor of letting Hollywood films play throughout the period would be to strengthen the overall box office and the refill the coffers of Chinese cinema operators. The year-to-date box office aggregate is $2.52 billion, or some 38% below 2021 levels, according to Artisan Gateway.
But, ultimately, this will be a political decision.