Was it bigger than last time? It’s the key question for box office watchers anywhere. Happily for the Chinese film industry – and particularly for industry heavyweights, Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow and Tsui Hark – the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, answered that. Lunar New Year holiday ticket sales in 2017 were the best, with a US$3.7 million increase on last year.
But other questions have been asked. Even as Kung Fu Yoga stretched its popularity to make it China’s number one film of the moment, pundits were querying figures released by Chan’s company Sparkle Roll Cinema Line.
The chain’s house numbers varied with noticeable and favourable irregularity when compared to averages across the rest of the nation. Similar allegations were made about Chan’s other 2017 release, Railroad Tigers.
Despite talks of crackdowns by China’s central government, the recent measure of including online booking fees in calculations has the effect of bloating, not reducing, box office figures in comparison to last year. Accordingly, players and watchers alike need to approach Sino box office figures with caution.
But even if they are as prone to contortion as a master yogi, the post-Lunar New Year statistics put Chan on top with Kung Fu Yoga currently tallying US$189.5 million and still going strong.
Though it was the overall big winner for the 2017 holiday period, and even surpassed the leviathanic scale for an opening day set by The Mermaid last year, the Chow/Tsui collaboration Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back (current gross US$212.1 million) has already began traveling southward, due to negative word about the film’s over-reliance on CGI effects.
In contrast to the bounty experienced on the mainland, the Hong Kong box office take for 2017’s Lunar New Year actually shrank from US$7.9 million last year to just over US$7 million this year.
But even with that bad news, the alumni of the Hong Kong film’s heyday, Chow and Tsui still had a merry trek to the bank as Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back was also the number one hit in the special administrative region, raking in US$1.7 million.
It’s no secret in Korea that Confidential Assignment triumphed during the Lunar New Year. Over the last weekend, Kim Sung-hoon’s teaming of North Korean cop Hyun-Bin with South Korean detective Yu Hae-jin apprehended a total gross of US$46 million for the spy drama from almost half of the Korean audience.
In contrast, Han Jae-rim’s crime drama The King (current gross of US$36.5 million) has seen its sovereignty reduced to around 18% of the market.
In Japan, strange has been replaced by the peculiar in a way that may seem odd. The market most likely to embrace director Tim Burton did so putting Dr Strange in second spot, while around 158,000 movie-goers preferred to visit Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Marvel’s superhero mystic attracted less people, but was more compelling in financial terms. Dr Strange conjured up US$2.2 million, while Miss Peregrine took in just over US$2 million.
The only newcomer to the Japanese top 10 this week is The 100th Love with You, which pulled in at number five, on the strength of reuniting singer songwriter Miwa with model/actor Sakaguchi Kentaro to capitalise on their successful appearance in the music video of “Yozora” (Night Sky) that Miwa recorded last year.
And while auteurs as diverse as Sono Sion (Shinjuku Swan II) and Martin Scorsese (Silence) fall from grace, anime In This Corner of the World continues to draw audiences with its gentle tale of life in WWII-era Hiroshima.
Like an echo of the success of juggernaut Your Name (hanging in at number four this week), this subdued film has quietly captured Japanese hearts and minds. Though its zenith was to reach the number three spot in mid-December, this is In This Corner of the World’s 13th consecutive week on the charts. Another reminder that bigger is not always better.