Despite allegations of a boycott – and perhaps helped by the controversy over its delayed release, which the director attributed to censorship problems – China’s box office champion Feng Xiaogang has done it again with his latest film I Am Not Madame Bovary.
The outspoken Feng, who has previously succeeded across a variety of genres – from epic melodrama (Aftershock), to war movie (Assembly) to bittersweet Sino romantic comedy (If You Are The One – parts 1 and 2) pushed the Marvel-lous foreign invader, Dr Strange (which has made US$102 million in China to date), from the top of the charts. Since opening on November 18 it has made US$29.3 million.
On opening day, the director publicly complained that Wanda Cinema Line’s chairman, Wang Jialin, had only allocated Feng’s social satire to 10.9 per cent of its cinemas – as opposed to 40 per cent of cinemas allocated by rival Chinese theatrical chains – in an effort to put the squeeze on Huayi Brothers, the film’s producers and distributors.
The idea of Chinese movie-goers shunning Wanda cinemas to support Feng is unlikely. Conspiracy or no conspiracy, however, the director has once again come up trumps.
Making a smaller splash is producer Luc Besson’s videogame-inspired French/Chinese co-production Warrior’s Gate, which is about a teenager using his console skills to become a martial artist. Directed by the creator of the UK zombie movie Cockneys Vs Zombies, Matthias Hoene, Warrior’s Gate made US$2.5 million.
Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them truly tamed the South Korean box office on its opening weekend, gaining almost 2 million admissions and just over US$14 million in revenue as it claimed 68 per cent of all attendances nationwide.
Dr Strange was herded back to the number three spot, with the Korean fantasy adventure Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned coming in at number two. This story of a young boy who suddenly becomes fully-grown following an encounter with a glittering egg saw Korean movie-goers shell out (US$2.4 million). It came in ahead of the Korean bowling drama Split and Yoo Hae-jin’s persistent amnesia comedy, Luck-Key, which accrued minor gains.
Rounding out the Korean top 10 is Taiwanese-Chinese high school romance At Café 6, which took US$119, 447.
Japan’s top 10, meanwhile, saw no change as Your Name continues to dominate. With a current revenue of US$171 million, the anime phenomenon of 2016 is steadily catching up with classics such as 1997’s Princess Mononoke (US$174.5 million) and 2004’s Howl’s Moving Castle (US$177.3 million), although the all-time Japanese record of US$275 million for 2001’s Spirited Away is still a long way off.
Likewise unchanged in second, third and fourth slots, respectively are the serial-killer thriller Museum; the Tom Cruise vehicle, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back; and Death Note sequel Light Up the New World. Right behind, though, Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow makes its opening gambit at number five. This slow, slow, slow-burn drama from the Kadokawa company features a haunting performance by Kenichi Matsuyama, who gained 20 kilograms to portray a semi-autistic shogi master with a fatal passion for the classic Japanese board game.
The only other debut in the Japanese top ten this week is the latest instalment in the Gundam franchise, Origin IV, which will charge the batteries of all the otakus who can bring themselves to leave the house. Much of the fanbase will probably regard such effort as unnecessary, however, as the film release of Origin IV acts merely as a promotion for the release of various DVD collectors’ editions that Bandai Visual is due to start rolling out at the end of the month.