Chinese animation “Nezha” continues its meteoric ascent to become one of China’s top-performing titles of all time, leading the weekend box office for the third week in a row thanks to a $66.5 million haul — still more than double that of its closest competitor, despite already having been in theaters for 18 days.
Its success has been boosted by a serious lack of other contenders: Every film below the top four grossers earned less than $700,000 this weekend, not even 1% of “Nezha’s” takings. The uneven performance highlights the struggles facing China’s box office this summer, as the pipeline of popular local titles dries up because of regulatory changes and a highly sensitive political anniversary coming up in October that has sent censors into overdrive.
With a total gross so far of $503 million (RMB3.55 billion), “Nezha” is already the fifth-highest-grossing title in Chinese film history, falling just behind last year’s “Operation Red Sea,” which grossed $576 million. The Maoyan ticketing platforms projects that it will earn a cumulative $671 million (RMB4.74 billion) over the course of its run, making it the second-highest earning film ever to hit Chinese theaters, more than sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth,” which captured the No. 2 spot, behind all-time leader “Wolf Warrior II,” earlier this year.
Disney’s “The Lion King” languished in a dismal ninth place, bringing in just $313,000 over the weekend, according to Maoyan, despite last week being granted a month-long extension to play in Chinese theaters through Sept. 10. It has made a total of $117 million (RMB826 million) in China so far, but Maoyan projects that its cumulative tally will only rise another $7 million further, far below initial projections. It has earned about $473 million so far in the U.S. — less than “Nezha’s” China gross.
The second highest grossing film over the weekend was Bona Film Group’s patriotic firefighting rescue movie “The Bravest,” which brought in $30.1 million in its second weekend, according to figures from consultancy Artisan Gateway. The co-production with Sony Pictures is the first in a trilogy known as “China’s Pride” meant as a tribute to the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic in October. The two other films in the Bona series, “Chairman Mao 1949” and “The Chinese Pilot,” will have September releases.
In third was the Jazz Boon-helmed Hong Kong action film “Line Walker 2,” which took in $27.5 million in its opening weekend. It stars Nick Cheung and Louis Koo cops and childhood friends. It is a sequel to 2016’s “Line Walker,” also directed by Boon and starring the same duo, which grossed $85.7 million (RMB605.3 million) in the mainland.
Chinese sci-fi blockbuster “Shanghai Fortress” has flopped, coming in fourth in its debut weekend with just $14 million. The lackluster performance shows that all the hype in February about “The Wandering Earth” charting a new course for the genre in China has yet to truly manifest in ambitious works able to similarly capture audiences’ imagination. “The Wandering Earth” had a local gross of $691 million. Maoyan is currently predicting that “Shanghai Fortress” will make just $20.9 million (RMB148 million) — some 33 times less.
Directed by Teng Huatao and starring Taiwanese superstar Shu Qi and Lu Han, the young heartthrob from boy band Exo, it has been rated abysmally online, with users on the discerning Douban platform giving it just a 3.3 out of 10, and those on the more populist Tao Piaopiao and Maoyan platforms giving it a 5.9 and 5.8 out of 10, respectively.
In fifth place was the Chinese drama “Looking Up,” starring, directed and produced by Deng Chao, which brought in just $700,000.