Cinema box office in mainland China came close to record levels over the Lunar New Year period, with RMB6.76 billion of gross revenue – or just fractions short of $1 billion – in a week.
Chinese state media reported the local currency number for a period covering Jan. 21-27. That compares with a figure of RMB7.82 billion in 2021, a year in which Chinese cinemas were operating normally and the country overtook North America as the world’s largest theatrical market.
The Lunar New Year period in 2022, which occurred before last year’s return of massively disruptive COVID-prevention measures, was worth RMB6.04 according to Chinese state media, citing the China Film Administration.
Unusually, data for the latest Friday to Sunday weekend includes one day that was officially a holiday (Friday) followed by two quieter weekend days. But the rankings are representative of the wider Lunar New Year period, and the cumulative totals are up to date as of Sunday evening.
Consultancy service Artisan Gateway reports Zhang Yimou’s period action comedy “Full River Red” as emerging on top. Released on Sunday, Jan. 22, it has accumulated RMB3.16 billion, or $465 million, in just eight days.
Frant Gwo’s sci-fi sequel, “The Wandering Earth 2” grossed RMB2.57 billion, or $378 million, over the same eight-day period. “Boonie Bears: The Guardian Code,” a Chinese animation film franchise with a new installment released every Lunar New Year, earned RMB924 million, or $136 million, in its eight-day opening session. World War II spy thriller “Hidden Blade” earned RMB586 million, or $86.2 million, in its eight-day opening, while children’s animated movie “Deep Sea” swam off with RMB451 million, or $66.3 million, for fifth place.
The season was also strong for Imax, which is heavily represented in China both in terms of venues and of films by local companies and filmmakers. On Saturday and Sunday, Imax theaters in China earned $6.6 million. That added to its record-setting six-day $34.2 million Chinese New Year haul (which includes Friday’s grosses). Over the longer eight-day period (i.e., official holiday and two days of a normal weekend) Imax screens earned $40.8 million, beating 2019’s $37.9 million tally.
On the Imax circuit, the first and second places were the reverse of the nationwide ranking. “The Wandering Earth 2” accounted for $31.3 million, making it the sixth highest grossing Chinese Imax title of all time. “Full River Red” totaled $5.5 million of Imax box office.
“We see the resurgence of China’s box office as an encouraging demonstration of the mainland audience’s enduring interest for cinema, from ‘Avatar: Way of Water,’ to the broad range of hits in this year’s Chinese New Year holiday,” an Artisan Gateway spokesman told Variety. “The expected return of Marvel films to the market is also significant, which we expect will also advance the rebound of the market.”