Valentine’s Day Treats Chinese Exhibitors with Love; “Journey” Obliterates Single-Day Record

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By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

February 16, 2013

Love was in the air for Chinese exhibitors on Valentine’s Day as date night sweethearts showered local movies with unprecedented affection. Admissions reached a record 4.5 million for the day, resulting in a 190 million RMB ($30.5 million) nationwide gross, a new single-day PRC record that surpassed the previous record of 140 million RMB by 36 percent.

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons was also red-hot, shattering Transformer 3’s nearly 18 month-old single-day record of 112 million RMB with a 122 million RMB ($19.6 million) tally.

Journey’s 6-day total stands at approximately $80 million (the 7-day cume will be about $92 million), which means it has sunk Titanic 3D’s single-week record opening gross of $74.7 million. If its momentum continues Journey could conceivably surpass the Chinese language film record of $201 million set recently by Lost in Thailand, and even the all-time record of $209 million that has been held by Avatar since early 2010.

The resurgence of Chinese language films at PRC multiplexes is a trend that warrants close scrutiny. In the past two months three Chinese films have exceeded $100 million in revenue, but it has been nearly a year since a Hollywood film did so. During the past six months the top of the box office chart has been dominated by local films.

Top 10, Aug 12 - Feb 13

*Estimate as of Feb 15, 2013; total projected gross to exceed $175 mm

Compare this to the chart for the first six months of 2012:Top 10 First Half 2012

*Still in release as of July 1, 2012; final gross was $115 mm

Chinese audiences have clearly shifted their attention—and their RMB—toward locally made films, and they have become more selective about the foreign films they attend. It’s not that Hollywood movies aren’t performing well in China, it’s just that the billion dollar global blockbusters that dominated China’s cineplexes last year have been underperforming of late.

I’ll explore this topic in more detail next week, after we see how well Jack Reacher performs over the weekend.

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


3 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day Treats Chinese Exhibitors with Love; “Journey” Obliterates Single-Day Record

  1. This is an interesting development, indeed, Robert. Is the Chinese audience growing up quickly or do they seek more substance than found in American action blockbusters? It would be interesting to get bits from horses’ mouths – if you are there, why not interview the odd theater goer. China’s filmmakers, of course, seek to entice the domestic audience but also to win the global market. I expect substantial changes over the next fifteen years in India which has been catering strictly to its domestic audience and seems stuck in a genre that will never catch on widely on a global basis. In China, however, I expect rapid change in several directions.

  2. I think this has to be put in perspective. The idea that foreign language Hollywood pix would dominate the China box office permanently was never a realistic expectation. Around the world, subtitled pictures are art house and even a second class citizen there. The current box office trends in China were inevitable. The real question is whether or not China can export their hits to the rest of the world — something they desperately want in the name of “soft power”. Japan, which is more international than China, has failed to export their animation or live action internationally with much success. Three of Hayao Miyazaki’s pictures earned more than $150M in Japan, but failed to earn more than $10M in the U.S. despite distribution by Disney and loving attention from John Lasseter of Pixar. The notion that only the U.S. can make blockbusters is wrong. The notion that they can make them for the international audience is probably true for the foreseeable future. Hollywood movies have successfully sold themes featuring the primacy of the individual, heroes that question authority, and the general notion of freedom. These things are anathema to state-controlled media in China — but audiences around the world love them.

    • ´The real question is whether or not China can export their hits to the rest of the world — something they desperately want in the name of “soft power”. they have already tried. 10 years ago. hero being the only successful exception, rest of Zhang Yimou´s did ok but other chinese blockbusters failed. (promise, red cliff) i dont think chinese blockbusters can succeed in US or EU. same way as japan movies are not popular anywhere else than japan. what i think will be a trend in 5 years, coproduction, more and more chinese money put in US films in hope to be successful in china and everywhere else too.

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