Scarlett Johansson as the titular character in the film Ghost in the Shell. Photo: Paramount Pictures /  Dreamworks
Scarlett Johansson as the titular character in the film Ghost in the Shell. Photo: Paramount Pictures / Dreamworks

Maybe China doesn’t care about white-washing. That’s one conclusion to jump to after the much-maligned, much-hyped Ghost in the Shell knocked Kong: Skull Island (current tally US$163.1 million) off the top perch occupied by the monkey monster movie at the mainland box office for three weeks.

Not that it was a spectacular debut for the controversial Hollywood adaptation of the 1995 Japanese anime. The Scarlett Johansson vehicle’s US$22.1 million was way down on typical number one openings in China. It’s clear that China’s embrace of Johansson is just a passing phase.

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Another adaptation of a Japanese product – a Chinese version of Higashino Keigo’s novel The Devotion of Suspect X – sat in the Sino chart’s number three seat. Pulling in US$9.1 million over the weekend helped Alec Su’s thriller to reach its current total of US$54.3 million. Extraordinary Mission, a pumped-up adventure about a Chinese policeman infiltrating a Thai-based drug manufacturing operation, dropped back to the number four slot, but with a current tally of US$21.2 million its smorgasboard of gunfire, explosions and rooftop motorcycle chases has clearly gripped audiences.

Bai Baihe’s search for her lost child in The Missing dropped to fifth place with a weekend tally of US$1.4 million, edging out Beauty and The Beast, which added US$1.2 million to its US$85.1 million total. Though performing slowly for the Friday night crowd, Quebecois animation Snowtime! picked up steam – and US$1.1 million – on Saturday and Sunday and looks set to snowball toward a bigger take.

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Animation continues to dominate in Japan. For the fourth week, Sing sat top and added US$2.7 million last weekend to reach a cumulative tally of US$35.9 million. Lapping at Sing’s lower register, Moana and the Legendary Sea waved in a healthy US$2.2 million this week.

The producers of Ghost in the Shell enlisted Takeshi “Beat” Kitano, Momoi Kaori and several of the anime version’s voice actors for the Japanese dubbing in the hope of whipping up a Japanese audience for their adaptation. Nice try, and the live-action did actually make more money than Moana, due to higher-priced tickets paid for by the otaku completists who probably made up Ghost in the Shell’s audience of 171,000. However, as Japan’s box office is prioritised in order of tickets sold, rather than money accumulated, Ghost was listed in third place behind Moana.

While it may have underperformed in China, Beauty and the Beast still merrily dances at the number one slot in Korea’s lackluster market. Drawing in US$2.5 million over the weekend, the Disney live-action reboot of the 1991 animation now has a cumulative tally of  US$33.4 million. The film’s closest and most consistent competitor is Na Hyeon’s crime feature The Prison which took in almost US$1.9 million over the weekend and is set to soon capture a cumulative take of US$20 million.

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A very poor third below those two features is Daniel Espinosa’s creature feature Life, featuring Jake Gyllenhaal as one of a team of scientists wrangling with a rapidly evolving life form. Taking in US$2.4 million since its April 5 opening, the American science-fiction thriller out-performed local film One Day, a ghostly romantic drama from the consistently working, if not always consistent, director Lee Yoon-ki, which has so far accumulated $US1.2 million.

The only other new Korean release this week is Finecut’s thriller House of the Disappeared, which has claimed a less than thrilling US$690,000 since it’s April 5 opening, despite the allure of Kim Yun-jin who has shone in Korean blockbusters from 1999’s Shiri to 2015’s Ode to My Father.