With the arrival of the Year of the Rooster, Tsui Hark/Stephen Chow collaboration Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back had the most to crow about.
At the end of its Lunar New Year weekend excursion, the Tsui directed sequel to Chow’s 2013 movie, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, far outdistanced its nearest rivals, by netting US$109.8 million.
Ironically, both of the Journey to the West sequel’s closest competitors travelled even further west by pursuing Indian themes. Getting to India after stops in “Tibet” and Dubai, Stanley Tong and Jackie Chan’s reteaming Kung Fu Yoga positioned itself at number two on the holiday charts.
With US$58.4 million in box office takings, the Chan vehicle moved ahead of Wang Baoqiang’s manic leap into the director’s debut chair, Buddies In India which started the holiday season more strongly. Despite already showing signs of box office fatigue, Wang’s variation on the Lost in Thailand formula managed a friendly US$57.3 million over the New Year weekend.
Left behind those Chinese New year trailblazers was Han Han’s time-travel drama Duckweed featuring Deng Chao as a small town youth whose near death experience hurtles him back in time for another perspective on the disapproval received from his father (played by Eddie Peng).
Duckweed swanned in to the number four slot with US$27.5 million over the weekend, sailing past kiddie’s fare Boonie Bears: Entangled Worlds which at a current total of US$24.3 million, has doubled the US$12 million it picked up at pre-holiday previews.
A late arrival to the New Year weekend’s box office bonanza was TV director Gao Xixi’s second cinematic outing, The Game Changer a movie-length adaptation of a Chinese TV show about 1930s Shanghai gang wars. Coming on like gangbusters on January 29, the film hit a quick US$1 million.
But among the smaller players, getting in earlier was the better strategy. Arriving one day before the big Chinese guns, Taiwanese/China co-production The Village of No Return with bankable stars Chang Hsiao-chuan, Shu Qi and Eric Tsang, pulled in US$1.8 million.
Over in Korea, the neck and neck race between The King and Confidential Assignment continues. Legal megalomania drama The King has ruled most of the way since both films released on January 18, but Kim Sung-hoon’s pairing of Hyun-Bin and Yu Hae-jin as North and South Korean cops has now caught US$32.2 million at the box office.
As a result, The King, which is flattening out with a current total of US$30.1 million in box office receipts, has abdicated supremacy to the spy thriller.
Exercising the same magical powers that he has elsewhere, Marvel’s mystic superhero Dr Strange pulled US$3.5 million out of its sleeve when it materialized at the top of the Japanese box office this week.
Dr Strange’s box office abilities stopped Kiseki: Sobito of that Day, a bio-pic about dental students cum J-pop group GreeeeN and their 2008 hit Kiseki (“miracle”), from topping the charts. On the flipside of that disappointment, this story of the famous, but still anonymous four-member millennial group did make it to number two, selling just over US$2 million worth of tickets.
(For the wondering wordsmiths, Sobito is apparently a term coined by the GreeeeN folks to mean a “free and unrestrained” person – hopefully not with dental drill in hand.)
Persistent anime Your Name maintained a presence at number three at the Japanese box office despite the arrival of other newcomers such as A Loving Husband which moved into fourth position.
Featuring Abe Hiroshi in the troubled title role, the directing debut of TV writer Yukawa Kazuhiko, made just under US$1 million over the weekend.
And in an example of what goes around comes around, Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven, a remake of John Sturges’ Western retread of Kurosawa Akira’s The Seven Samurai stealthily occupied the number 10 slot.