‘Lost’ Finds Whopping $106 Million 3-Day Debut In China

‘Lost’ Finds Whopping $106 Million 3-Day Debut In China

by Robert Cain for China Film Biz

LiHK 3

Taking advantage of its prime opening weekend slot during the Harvest Moon Festival, Lost in Hong Kong grossed more than $32 million per day in each of its first 3 days for a spectacular $106 million weekend, the best ever for a Chinese movie. Only Furious 7, which debuted to $121 million in its Sunday-Tuesday opening in April, has ever notched a bigger 3-day opening in China.  Keep reading in Forbes…

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‘Lost in Hong Kong’ Romps To New China Box Office Record

‘Lost in Hong Kong’ Romps To New China Box Office Record

by Robert Cain for China Film Biz


Lost in Hong Kong, actor-writer-director Xu Zheng’s long anticipated sequel to his 2012 smash hit comedy Lost in Thailand, set new box office records on Friday for locally made Chinese films, with a $1.8 million gross for its midnight screenings and a $32 million opening day. The latter figure gives the picture the third biggest debut overall in China behind Furious 7 and Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Keep reading in Forbes…

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Box Office Records Battered as China Flips For ‘Pancake Man’

Box Office Records Battered as China Flips For ‘Pancake Man’

by Robert Cain for China Film Biz

Pancake Man

‘Pancake Man’ and other films have flattened China’s previous box office records this weekend.

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Justin Lin’s Latest More Slow and Somber Than Fast and Furious in China Debut

Justin Lin’s Latest More Slow and Somber Than Fast and Furious in China Debut

The star-studded Hollywood Adventures opened far below estimates with a $9 million opening day and $26-$27 million weekend, only 9th best 2015 debut among Chinese films.

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China’s Billionaire Actress Zhao Wei (赵薇)

China’s Billionaire Actress Zhao Wei (赵薇)

China’s Billionaire Actress Zhao Wei (赵薇)

Zhao Wei

The world’s wealthiest working actress is a former kindergarten teacher with such keen investing acumen that she’s been nicknamed “China’s show-business Buffett” by her country’s media.


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A Guide to Recognizing Your Stars Part 1: Chinese Female Leads

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Galaxy By Robert Cain for China Film Biz
January 11, 2015

This is the first of a 2-part series.

Who are the kings and queens of the Chinese box office? It’s a pertinent question even if you don’t work in China’s film business, because owing to the size of their domestic market, these individuals are some of the world’s biggest box office draws.

They may not yet rival their Hollywood counterparts in earning power—their films don’t travel well outside the People’s Republic—but they are catching up fast. As China’s box office continues to boom, and as Hollywood studios increasingly cast Chinese stars in their movies to boost their PRC results, many of these actors will enjoy increasing global clout

You may not recognize some of the names mentioned below. Even if you’re familiar with the comings and goings of Chinese cinema, you may find yourself surprised by the names that make the list, and the ones that don’t. But if you’re in any way involved in the global entertainment industry, you’ll want to be acquainted with the who’s who of the Chinese movie scene.

This article will focus on China’s female stars, and a subsequent article will focus on the males. The actors in both articles are ranked by the aggregated mainland box office revenues, calculated in Chinese Yuan, of the films in which they appeared that were released in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

For a film to be counted toward an actor’s total, they must have been billed among the top five leads. If an actor appeared in a film but was not billed among the top five, that film is not counted toward their results. For Hollywood films in which a Chinese actor appeared, only the Chinese box office figure is tallied. Animated films in which an actor voiced a role are counted, including foreign animated films in which the actor provided a Chinese language voice dub (e.g., Deng Chao in Despicable Me 2).

So without further ado, here are the reigning divas of the Chinese film industry:

#1 Fan Bingbing.

female star Fan Bingbing

Chinese Name:  范冰冰
Birthdate:  September 16, 1981
Birthplace: Qingdao, Shandong, China
Education: Shanghai Theater Academy
2012-2014 Aggregate Box Office
(RMB): 3.41 billion
(USD): 554 million
Highest Grossing Recent Film: Iron Man 3 (2013), 753 mm RMB

For more than fifteen years since her 1998 hit TV series My Fair Princess, and then her 2003 breakout film role in director Feng Xiaogang’s thriller Cell Phone, Fan Bingbing has been at the top of the PRC’s A-list. Her acting talents have earned her a prestigious Golden Horse Award, a Hundred Flowers Award, a Huading Award, and other recognition, and Forbes China has ranked her as the number 1 Chinese celebrity for the past two years. She is among the first Chinese females to be featured in Hollywood films, with roles in Iron Man 3, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and this coming April’s The Moon and the Sun. Fan is also a successful recording star, a TV producer, and China’s top brand endorsement celebrity.


#2 Yang Mi

female star Yang Mi

Chinese name: 杨幂
Birthdate:  September 12, 1986
Birthplace: Beijing, China
Education: Beijing Film Academy
2012-2014 Aggregate Box Office
(RMB): 3.15 billion
(USD): 512 million
Highest Grossing Recent Film: Painted Skin: The Resurrection (2012), 727 mm RMB

The youngest of the actresses on this list, Yang Mi began acting when her parents enrolled her in classes at the China Children’s Film Studio. At just four years old she appeared as young Princess Xianyi in the TV period drama Tang Ming Huang, and by the age of 6 she was winning national acting awards. In an early film role she played Stephen Chow’s daughter in the Hong Kong martial arts comedy King of Beggars. After a stint as a magazine model she went on to star in several popular TV series, most notably as the time traveling lead character in Palace. Her breakout film role came when she played a quirky demon in the box office smash, Painted Skin: The Resurrection. She reached the #2 spot on this list mainly because she starred in the hugely successful Tiny Times romance franchise, which has spawned three sequels, and in the 2014 rom-com hit The Breakup Guru. She also enjoys the distinction of having starred in one of China’s most successful horror films, Mysterious Island. Together with her new husband, TV star Hawick Lau, she is part of one of China’s most famous celebrity couples.


#3 “Fanny” Shu Qi

female star Shu Qi

Chinese name: 林立慧 (Lin Lihui)
Birthdate:  April 16, 1976
Birthplace: New Taipei City, Taiwan
2012-2014 Aggregate Box Office
(RMB): 2.79 billion
(USD): 454 million
Highest Grossing Recent Film: Journey to the West: Conquering the Demon (2013), 1.25 billion RMB

Taiwan born Shu Qi is the unlikeliest of the actresses to appear in this list. The former porn actress and Playboy model somehow managed to earn the forgiveness of China’s puritan censors for having starred in such racy Hong Kong fare as Viva Erotica, Sex and Zen II and several soft core porn films, and went on to a mainstream career both in Chinese and international cinema. She has appeared opposite Jason Statham in The Transporter, she starred in the Hong Kong horror hit The Eye 2, and she won a Golden Horse best actress award for her multiple-character performance in director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Three Times. In addition to Hou she has worked with several of China’s other top directors, including Stephen Fung, Jackie Chan, Jiang Wen, and Feng Xiaogang.


#4 Yuan Quan
female star Yuan Quan

Chinese name: 袁泉
Birthdate:  October 16, 1977
Birthplace: Hubei, China
Education: Central Academy of Drama
2012-2014 Aggregate Box Office
(RMB): 2.23 billion
(USD): 362 million
Highest Grossing Recent Film: Breakup Buddies (2014), 1.16 billion RMB

Actress and singer Yuan Quan had a big year in 2014, appearing in China’s highest grossing comedy, Breakup Buddies, and its highest grossing romance, The Continent. After a 7-year education in opera at the Chinese Opera Institute that began when she was 11 years old, she entered the Central Academy of Drama in an illustrious class that included Zhang Ziyi, Mei Ting, and four other actresses who came to be known as the “Seven Golden Flowers.” Her film career started auspiciously in 1999 with the film Spring Rhapsody, for which she won a Golden Rooster Award for best supporting actress. She has since moved successfully between film, television, and music, winning numerous awards including a 2009 Billboard Music Award for Best Album.


#5 “Vicky” Zhao Wei
female star Zhao Wei
Chinese name:
Birthdate:  March 12, 1976
Birthplace: Wuhu, Anhui, China
Education: Beijing Film Academy
2012-2014 Aggregate Box Office
(RMB): 2.13 billion
(USD): 346 million
Highest Grossing Recent Film: Painted Skin: The Resurrection (2012), 727 mm RMB

Zhao Wei caught the acting bug at 17 when the film Hua Hun starring Gong Li came to her hometown and she was chosen to appear as an extra. Soon after, she quit her job as a kindergarten teacher and headed to Shanghai to enroll in a new film arts academy founded by legendary director Xie Jin, and then at 20 she earned the highest score in the entrance exam to enroll at the Beijing Film Academy. While still a student there she rose to national prominence when she starred—along with Fan Bingbing—in the smash hit TV drama My Fair Princess. For that role she became the youngest actress to win the Golden Eagle Award. She went on to more awards recognition for a string of film appearances, most notably John Woo’s Red Cliff, the epic adventure Warriors of Heaven and Earth and the Painted Skin films. In 2013 she made her directorial debut with the hit romance So Young, which is the fifth highest grossing film in Chinese box office history.

Please look for Part 2 of this series, which will look at China’s leading male stars.

For detailed research reports on China’s movie stars and box office, write us at info@pacificbridgepics.com.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at http://www.pacificbridgepics.com.

“Painted” Skins the Competition with Sophisticated Strategy and Superior Marketing


by Robert Cain for China Film Biz

July 5, 2012

Bang the gong, break out the champagne, and set off some extra fireworks, because China finally has a bona fide, home-grown blockbuster hit.  Painted Skin: The Resurrection (画皮2, or Painted Skin 2), the $18 million sequel to the 2008 smash Painted Skin, last weekend became the first non-Hollywood film in nearly 6 months to beat out the foreign competition and place first at the Chinese box office, with a record-breaking gross of $47 million in its first 4 days.

Set in the late Qin-early Han period in China’s history, Painted 2 is an action-fantasy-romance based on a classic Chinese story about a female demon whose great desire is to become human, even though the transformation must come at great cost. “The Hollywood Reporter” called Painted 2 visually impressive, albeit uneven in its storytelling: “The result is a roller-coaster of a film that will divide audiences particularly along gender lines, having greater appeal for female viewers both because it is fundamentally a love story with a noble, long-haired, romantic hero, and thanks to the presence of four strong and powerful women characters who run the show.”

Even though there were no new Hollywood releases last week to stand in the way of Painted Skin 2, the film’s box office performance was nevertheless impressive on many levels. Skillful packaging, an enlightened production approach, and solid marketing combined to generate the best opening day, best single day gross, and best weekend ever by a Chinese language film. In PRC box office history only Titanic 3D and Transformers 3 have opened more strongly than this new China-Hong Kong co-production. Chinese producers would do well to study and emulate Painted 2’s overall strategy, which included the following elements:

1. Astute packaging. The film features an array of top Chinese stars—Zhou Xun (The Great MagicianFlying Swords of Dragon Gate), Zhao Wei (Eternal Moment, Love), Chen Kun (Let the Bullets FlyFlying Swords…), and Feng Shaofeng (White Vengeance)—who together deliver large, complementary fanbases across a wide range of ages and demographics. And director Wuershan, who last directed the martial arts comedy The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman, also brings a following as an emerging director to watch.

2. Adroit audience targetingPainted 2 was developed to target female Chinese moviegoers, who are largely underserved and who had proven their attractiveness as an audience for films like Love is Not Blind (US $55mm gross) and Eternal Moment ($31mm). With its themes of romance and beauty, and with its story centered on two female friends, Painted 2 admirably filled a lucrative niche in the marketplace.

3. “Producer-centric” model. Painted 2 producers Pang Hong and Huayi Brothers chose to avoid the usual Chinese director-centric filmmaking approach, which places ultimate control and decision-making authority in the director’s hands, in favor of a more Hollywood-style approach. They executed a market-oriented strategy in their selection of director, their screenplay development, their choice of release date, and their investment and production management. The film’s success makes it a shining example of the advantages of the “producer-centered” model and its applicability in China, and it could have a long-lasting impact on Chinese film production.

4. Production Value—on a budget. With their $18 million budget, Painted 2’s producers had enough money to make an ambitious film by Chinese standards, but not enough to compete with the world-class effects and production values of the Hollywood films that have attracted—some would say ‘spoiled’—so many Chinese moviegoers of late. So they opted for what they termed an “Oriental Magic” look, an impressionistic visual effects style that allowed them, in the words of director Wuershan, to “make Harry Potter on a Black Swan budget.”

5. Sophisticated marketing. The marketing campaign for Painted 2 began when the cameras started rolling, with the release of a popular phone and ipad app that allowed fans to apply to their favorite photos the golden half mask worn by Zhao Wei’s character, Princess Jing. Additional tactics included wide distribution of teaser trailers in November 2011 and in March and May of 2012, high profile, buzz generating screenings at Cannes and the Shanghai Film Festival, outdoor advertising on the world’s largest LED screen (a 63 meter high screen on the side of a Shanghai skyscraper that was seen by as many as 1.5 million people every day), a 3D only wide release strategy on over 3,000 screens, and heavy social media promotion through Sina Weibo and other online platforms. The marketing team even took advantage of publicity regarding the reported on-set tensions between the two female leads, and of public speculation about who might be the mother of the leading actor’s illegitimate son. Finally, Painted 2 benefited from fortuitous release timing, opening at the beginning of a three-week window that will have no competing Hollywood releases, until the belated Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part I opens in late July.


After months of nail-biting over their shockingly shrinking share of the domestic market, Chinese filmmakers can breathe a little easier this week in the knowledge that all is not lost. The lessons of Painted Skin: The Resurrection are that, by using innovative approaches to producing and marketing their movies, and by selectively adapting Hollywood tactics to the realities of the Chinese market, producers in the PRC can regain their share of the Chinese box office.

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

China’s Box Office: “Love” in the Air on Valentine’s Day

By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

February 27, 2012

Valentine’s Day offered a tasty treat for cinema operators in China, with a massive Tuesday gross of more than $20 million from nearly 3 million admissions.

Lovers were lured to theaters by a slew of new and holdover romantic offerings, led by Huayi Brothers’ all-star ensemble romantic drama Love (), which snared $13.89 million in ticket sales during Cupid’s week. The film is stocked with stars who have played romantic roles before, like Eddie Peng (My DNA Says I Love You, My So Called Love, Love You You), Ethan Ruan (L-O-V-E), Shu Qi (New York I Love You) and Zhao Wei (A Time to Love), and tells the story of three couples whose lives are intertwined in romances across Beijing and Taipei.

Other romance-themed pictures included holdovers I Do with $6.31 in its second week and Romancing in Thin Air with $1.17 million, and new release Truth or Dare with $1.82 million.

Valentine’s Day, like Christmas, has swiftly become a major commercial holiday in China. It has supplanted the traditional Chinese Lovers Day holiday as a time for romance, popular for candle-lit dinners followed by movie dates, and for spikes in supermarket sales of chocolates, cakes, flowers and wine.

Not all the romancing is as wholesome as Confucius would have liked; in addition to blossoming young love, Valentine’s Day has also become synonymous with extramarital affairs. According to anti-adultery activist Xia Haixin “Hotels are booked up around Valentine’s Day and florists, sex shops, and jewelry stores are booming, but few people spend Valentine’s Day with their spouse.”

According to a recent Christian Science Monitor article, Xia has paid to install billboards on a highway in Hebei Province, not far from Beijing, urging drivers, “Don’t have an affair on Valentine’s Day. Bring your love home.” As Xia explains, “We want to remind people to behave themselves instead of making mistakes on the day.”

Aside from romance, Chinese moviegoers also had adventure on their minds, as Journey 2: The Mysterious Island seized the top spot at the box office with $21.24 million for a 10-day cume of $36.5 million. Journey benefitted from numerous IMAX and 3D playdates, and is now the second film of 2012 to top $30 million, after Mission Impossible 4. M:I4 added $12.3 million to its gross, and now appears likely to break the $100 million mark in China.

New releases for the week of February 20th include 3 foreign films: Happy Feet 2, Conan the Barbarian and, nearly a year and a half after its initial US release, the 2011 Oscar winning hit The King’s Speech. It promises to be another good week at the box office so long as all those Chinese lovers aren’t too fatigued from their Valentine’s Day  trysts.

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