Monsters and Sherlock Holmes rip-off smash Spring Festival box office records in China

China’s successful home-grown film franchises rake in billions of yuan during holiday season

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 February, 2018, 8:34am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 February, 2018, 8:34am

It was a monster weekend for box office collections in China that shattered all previous records.

Led by home grown productions of sequels such as the fantasy action comedy Monster Hunt 2 and Detective Chinatown 2, China’s own Sherlock Holmes franchise, the takings were 65 per cent higher year on year at nearly 3.2 billion yuan (US$504.5 million) from February 16 to 18, the first three days of the weeklong Spring Festival holidays, according to data from Chinese online ticketing platform Maoyan.

Ticket sales on February 16 alone reached 1.3 billion yuan, 60 per cent higher than the 810 million yuan collected on the first Friday of last year’s holidays.

The record numbers come amid an increase in domestic film productions in the past two years, boosted by encouragement from the government and the changing palates of small town film-goers, who have become a major contributor to the box office collections.

“People have a whole week off and going to the movies is probably the easiest way of getting entertained – and it’s not that expensive these days either, what with the discounted tickets on offer online and elsewhere,” said Clarence Tsui, a Hong Kong film critic.

Among China’s 10 highest grossing films of all time as of 2017, only three were foreign productions – Fate of the Furious, Furious 7 and Transformers: Age of Extinction. The 2017 Jing Wu-directed Wolf Warrior 2 that tells the story of a Chinese special forces operative who protects medical aid workers in an African country from local rebels and vicious arm dealers, topped the list with US$874 million in ticket sales, followed by Hong Kong actor and director Stephen Chow Sing-chi’s Mermaid that raked in US$522 million in 2016. Fate of the Furious came in third followed by Monster Hunt, the 2015 Chinese-Hong Kong 3D fantasy action, which pocketed US$375 million.

We expect to see double-digit growth for China’s box office in 2018
Shao Wei, analyst with Sealand Securities

“We expect to see double-digit growth for China’s box office in 2018,” said Shao Wei, analyst with Sealand Securities. “The government has issued decrees to encourage the development of domestic films which, while unlikely to have an immediate effect on the industry, bodes well for the long-term growth of domestic films.”

From January, China’s national bureau which oversees the film industry, said that it planned to provide financial incentives to cinemas generating more than 55 per cent of annual ticket revenue from domestic productions as part of the government’s efforts to promote locally produced films.

The resounding success of domestic films will no doubt please cinema operators.

Detective Chinatown 2, directed by Chinese actor Chen Sicheng, has made 1.6 billion yuan since its release five days ago to become the top grosser at the box office, according to Maoyan. In this Chinese version of Sherlock Holmes, a duo team up to hunt down a killer in New York’s Chinatown.

Monster Hunt 2 came in a close second, making 1.54 billion yuan in the same period. The film is centred around Wuba, a monster king who is also featured in the first part of the series. It follows Wuba’s journey after leaving his human parents.

Both film franchises were created and promoted by Chinese production houses including Wanda Pictures and Anle (Beijing) Film Distribution as well as Shanghai Chengya Entertainment.