China’s Box Office: ‘East’ Beats West

By Robert Cain

November 29, 2011

Hong Kong writer-director Jeffrey Lau’s comedy East Meets West led the Chinese box office last week with an $8.1 million gross, marking the third straight week that Chinese language films have taken the top spot in China. East edged out homegrown phenomenon Love is Not Blind, which took in $7.2 million to up its 20 day cumulative gross to $50.4 million.

All told, the top 10 films took in $34 million, a 26 percent improvement over the same frame last year. Aside from East, new releases failed to generate much interest, with Tropa de Elite 2 (the first Brazilian release in China this year) managing just $1.55 million in ticket sales, and the China/Hong Kong horror co-pro Night Mare failing just short of $1 million. Aside from the moderate summer success of Mysterious Island with its $13.6 million tally, the horror genre still has yet to prove itself with modern Chinese audiences.

East Meets West marks something of a return to form for Lau, whose collaborations with Wong Kar-wai (Chinese Odyssey 2002) and Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle) early this decade were critical and commercial successes. After a few missteps with recent films like Metallic Attraction: Kung-Fu Cyborg, Lau showed with East Meets West that he still has some chops. As one reviewer put it, “The film is relentlessly energetic and brimming with enthusiasm.”

U.S.-made films continued to generate solid, if not blockbuster, business, with The Adventures of Tintin crossing the $15 million threshold, the 32nd film to reach this level in 2011. Rise of the Planet of the Apes wound up its run just shy of $31 million, making it the 13th highest grossing film in China so far this year. With no major Hollywood releases slated at the Chinese box office this week, it’s a near certainty that Chinese language films will rule the box office for the fourth week in a row.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at and at

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