'Monkey King,' 'Hobbit' help fuel China box-office surge

BEIJING -- Not even two months into 2014, China’s box office has topped $900 million, a blistering pace far ahead of last year, when receipts for the entire first quarter were about $830 million.

The strong results are being powered by a number of films, including “The Monkey King,” which in the week that ended Sunday became only the fifth film to cross the 1-billion-renminbi milestone at the mainland box office, consulting firm Artisan Gateway said.

That puts “Monkey” in rare company. Other films that have surpassed that threshold  -- about $163 million at Wednesday’s exchange rate -- are “Avatar” (2010), “Transformers 3” (2011), the comedy “Lost in Thailand” (2012) and “Journey to the West” (2013).


“The Monkey King,” which arrived in theaters just as the Chinese New Year holiday was getting underway Jan. 31, took in $8.67 million for the week ending Sunday, bringing its total to $168.6 million.

The top film of the week was Warner Bros. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” which raked in $33.8 million in its first weekend. That’s nearly double the $19.5 million the first film in the series, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” took in on its opening weekend, Artisan said.

In second place was “Beijing Love Story,” which has been a crowd pleaser since its opening on the eve of Valentine’s Day. The light romance, a series of interlocking stories, took in $20.6 million for the week, bringing its tally to $54.6 million.

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Third place was claimed by “The Man From Macau,” which earned $10.9 million. The film from director Wong Jing has flown a bit under the radar, holding at No. 3 for the last four weeks, but nevertheless it has grossed $79.2 million.

Disney’s “Frozen” -- known here as “Snow Romance” -- brought in $8.7 million for the week. Its total China box office now stands at $40.2 million, a record for a Disney animated film, Artisan said.

Overall, mainland China’s year-to-date box office has taken in $903 million.


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