China’s ‘Battle at Lake Changjin’ beats James Bond at box office with $203 million
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- Variety／Patrick Frater, Rebecca Davis
China's "The Battle at Lake Changjin" was the highest grossing film anywhere in the world over the past weekend, with a $203 million haul.
That score was fractionally lower than the combined total earned by “No Time to Die” ($119 million in international markets) and by “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” ($90.2 million in North America).
The film was the far away winner in mainland China, where it was released on Thursday, a day ahead of the October 1, National Day holiday. Over four days on release, it earned $234 million, according to consultancy Artisan Gateway.
Additional data from local provider Ent Group showed that “Battle” enjoyed a massive 157,000 screenings per day and was watched by 25.5 million ticket buyers between Friday and Sunday.
Both titles are examples of the patriotic triumphalism that has come to typify the Chinese box office since it re-opened, post pandemic in July last year, and both capitalize on the sentiment stirred up around the annual celebrations of the country’s birth, some 72 years ago.
“Changjin” earned $12.9 million of its total from Imax giant screens, making it the third biggest Imax opening weekend of all time behind sci-fi title “The Wandering Earth” and Chinese New Year comedy “Detective Chinatown 3.”
Made with a production budget reported to be over $200 million, the film boasts three of Greater China’s top directors: Chen Kaige, Tsui Hark and Dante Lam. It is an epic war film praising the triumphs of Chinese soldiers fighting American-led United Nations forces in the early days of the Korean War (1950-1953). China portrays its involvement in the war as an act of self-defense and one of support for North Korean leader Kim Il-sung. In Chinese, it is called the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea.
The film was produced by Bona Film Group and stars WU Jing, star and director of the blockbuster “Wolf Warrior” war films, and pop idol turned actor Jackson Yee. (Wu also stars in and is credited as one of four co-directors on “My Country, My Parents”.)
In a very distant third place, Chinese-made animation “Dear Tutu: Operation T-Rex” earned $3.5 million over three days.
Artisan Gateway shows the weekend aggregate to have been $295 million or some RMB1.9 billion. That advances the year-to-date box office in China to $5.31 billion, a figure that is 27% below the same point in pre-pandemic 2019. Over the seven day National Holiday period in 2019, box office takings reached RMB4.5 billion.
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