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Chinese language cinema

The Founding of an Army loses China box office battle to another bombastic action film about Chinese military heroism

Hong Kong filmmaker Andrew Lau’s movie timed to mark 90th anniversary of People’s Liberation Army takes less than a fifth as much as Wu Jing’s Africa-set Wolf Warrior 2, despite official endorsement that gives it more screenings

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 July, 2017, 5:59pm
UPDATED : Monday, 31 July, 2017, 5:59pm

Despite official endorsement that requires cinema exhibitors to allocate a sizeable proportion of screening slots to the film, The Founding of an Army, directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Andrew Lau Wai-keung and which commemorates the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, has lost a lopsided box office battle to Wolf Warrior 2 since both films opened in China on July 27.

According to real-time figures displayed on box-office monitoring site Maoyan.com, by 5pm on Monday Lau’s star-studded Chinese Communist Party propaganda film had taken 218 million yuan (US$32 million, HK$253 million) in its first five days on release – less than one-fifth of the 1.14 billion yuan grossed by Wu Jing’s action sequel in the same period, a figure which makes the latter the biggest Chinese-made blockbuster of the year so far.

Just 9.9 per cent of seats have been filled at screenings of The Founding of an Army, compared to 22.1 per cent for Wolf Warrior 2.

Director Andrew Lau hits back at critics of trendy young stars in film on founding of the PLA

The irony of the latter’s dominance is obvious. Directed by and starring Wu Jing, Wolf Warrior 2 again sees the veteran martial arts actor – playing a former Chinese soldier embroiled in an African revolution – pull off a barrage of impressively violent action sequences. In The Founding of an Army, the founding of China’s military is likewise portrayed in a series of intense battle scenes, stylishly directed by Lau.

Lau’s film is the last in a trilogy, after 2009’s The Founding of the Republic and 2011’s The Founding of the Party, which both enjoyed relative success at the domestic box office.

Unlike the first two films, The Founding of an Army features hardly any Hong Kong movie stars (if one doesn’t count William Chan Wai-ting), suggesting it will fare poorly at the Hong Kong box office when it goes on general release on August 3.

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