A shot from See You Tomorrow.
A shot from See You Tomorrow.

While Western film pundits gossip about the fate of Matt Damon and The Great Wall, Chinese audiences have been saying, “See You Tomorrow”. The directorial debut of popular author Zhang Jiajia (who also scripted the October success I Belonged To You and 2010s The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman) took top spot at the Chinese box office, raking in US$38.9 million.

With the imprimatur of the auteur Wong Kar-wai as producer and the teaming of Wong’s regular actors Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Takeshi Kaneshiro with mainland China’s star actress of the moment, Angelababy, See You Tomorrow stalked just ahead of Railroad Tigers, which had the equally impressive star power of Jackie Chan leading a battalion of supporting players including his son, Jaycee Chan. The third collaboration between director Sheng Ding and the martial arts icon, this slapstick adventure stole much of See You Tomorrow’s thunder with an opening tally of $US30.7 million.

And The Great Wall? It crumbled a little… but despite predictions of a tumultuous tumbling, it held a dignified position. Fortifying itself with an additional US$52 million over the past week, the Zhang Yimou extravaganza dropped to third place in this week’s Chinese box office contest. Notably, the two debut films made only slightly more than the amount The Great Wall built up single-handedly over its opening the weekend before.

The South Korean box office may have met its master for the year in more ways than one. Kicking off the end of year season on the peninsula, Cho Ui-seok’s white-collar crime movie, Master, featuring Lee Byung-hyun as a corrupt CEO, commanded an impressive 56% of the market and a rich US$20.8 million since opening on December 21.

Music once again played second fiddle in Korea, with the animated animal musical Sing hitting a lower key 12% of the Korean audience, enough to push live action musical La La Land down to fourth place with less than 10% of the market. Wedged in between the two songfests, Korean disaster movie Pandora salvaged an additional US$4.3 million to reach a tally of around US$26 million.

Read: our review of Asian film in 2016

Over in Franchise-land (aka Japan), yet another movie series pushed its way to the top of the box office. Outplaying last week’s local champion Yokai Watch the Movie: The Flying Whale and the Grand Adventure of Double Worlds, Meow!, the sixth film in a computer game series more familiar to Western audiences, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, scored US$5.2 million. This figure is down on the US$11.2 million of the previous installment, 2012’s Resident Evil: Retribution.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dropped to an unfulfilling number three and the dominant franchise before that, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, dropped to number four.

In Japan’s number five slot, the world’s fastest director, Miike Takashi, followed up on 2014’s The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji, his first adaptation of the Mole manga detective series, with a sequel, The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio. Returning Ikuta Toma to his original role as an undercover cop, this time on a mission to infiltrate Chinese Triads, The Mole uncovered US$1.9 million.

Though still attracting Japanese audiences, the luster of anime hit Your Name is slowly beginning to fade – it descended to seventh place in Japan’s top ten. Not quite the sensation that Shinkai Makoto’s film has proved, WWII-era anime production In This Corner of the World continues its tenacious grip on the bottom rung of Japan’s top ten. Starting off on 63 screens in November, the film, which has proved a strong draw for mature audiences, is now playing on 106 screens. As the shogatsu (New year) season approaches, it will be interesting to see if In This Corner of the World continues its longevity as other Japanese films come and go.

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