Chinese Audiences Screaming For “Vengeance”

By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

December 9, 2011

Writer-director Daniel Lee’s period action epic White Vengeance led a crowded field of new entrants to take the Chinese box office crown last week with a gross of $13.1 million. This was enough to give the China/Hong Kong co-production the 7th best opening week for a non-Hollywood film this year, and the 13th best opening week amongst all films.

The rest of the field, which included a total of 7 new films, failed to excite moviegoers. Second place went to another China/Hong Kong co-pro, holdover East Meets West, which took in $3.4 million. Two of the openers were foreign imports: the critically panned Screen Gems action-horror flick Priest, which grossed $3.1 million for DMG, and Terry Gilliam’s France/Canada co-pro fantasy The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, which picked up just $1.2 million for Huaxia.

Still, total box office for the top 10 films amounted to $30.6 million, a decent if not spectacular week.

It will take some major hits in the next few weeks for China’s total theatrical revenue to cross the $2 billion mark in 2011, but that’s exactly what might happen, with two big Chinese blockbusters slated to open against each other on December 15th. Tsui Hark’s $35 million action film Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, starring Jet Li, will go up against the $100 million Zhang Yimou-Christian Bale historical epic Flowers of War.

The rivalry between the producers of these two films will add some spice to next week’s box office competition. The feisty and outspoken Zhang Weiping, producer of  Flowers of War, has banned Bona Group, the producer-distributor of Flying Swords from carrying his film in Bona’s company-owned theaters, claiming that Bona has dragged its feet in paying Zhang monies owed on previous films.

Whatever happens, look for box office records to be broken as these two highly anticipated movies kick-off China’s peak holiday season.

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

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