Action-adventure film, “Schemes in Antiques” grabbed the top spot at the mainland China box office with a solid $25.6 million debut.
It deposed crime comedy “Be Somebody” which had topped the chart for the past three weekends and earned $13.3 million in its fourth weekend, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway. After 24 days on release, “Somebody has a $117 million cumulative.
Directed by Hong Kong’s Derek Kwok Chi-kin, “Schemes” is a tale of a religious relic being returned to China that calls for the re-awakening of a clan of relic hunters. It stars the much-loved veteran Ge You alongside younger generation performers Lei Jiayin, Xin Zhilei and Li Xian. Production was by Hong Kong-based Emperor Motion Pictures.
Third place belonged to another new release “Your World, Without Me,” a romantic drama about attraction between two people with opposing characters. A long way off the leading pair, it earned $3.1 million.
“The Door Lock,” a suspense horror film about a woman living alone in a big city, slipped to fourth place with $1.8 million earned over the weekend. Its total stands at $36.1 million after a bright start three week ago.
Record-breaker “The Battle at Lake Changjin” continued in fifth place. It added $1.7 million over the weekend and extended its cumulative to $897 million.
The weekend aggregate box office was $51.4 million, up from $45.4 million the previous weekend. Year to date revenues are $6.99 billion, some 26% below the comparable 2019 figures.
That is at least partly a political decision as numerous Hollywood imported titles have been denied release permits. The latest weekend included no new Hollywood releases and “No Time To Die” in eighth place as the highest-placed Hollywood holdover.
It is unclear whether any additional major Hollywood titles will be allowed to debut before the end of the year. In previous years, the Christmas-New Year period has often been reserved for Chinese releases. And in recent days “The Matrix: Resurrections” was given a date in mid-January, normally a low point between the calendar new year and the lunar new year (or Chinese New Year), which in 2022 begins on Feb. 1.
The date, three weeks after the film debuts in U.S. theaters and on HBO Max, leaved the film open to piracy. But with political relations between China and the U.S. close to an all-time low, Hollywood cannot count on many favors from Chinese regulators.
In another piece of political maneuvring, much publicity had been given to a Korean-made film being permitted a release in China for the first time in six years. That was said to signal a diplomatic thawing between the Asian neighbors. But the commercial reality is not in step with the headline news. The film “Oh My Gran” was given a minimalist release that positioned it outside the top ten. After three days on release, it has grossed just $170,000.
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