Poster of "Lost in Thailand"
A low-budget comedy has set new box office records on the Chinese mainland, attracting moviegoers with its simple style and hilarious performances.
"Lost in Thailand," which was made with a budget of less than five million U.S. dollars, earned 50 million dollars in its first five days after debuting on Dec. 12.
Its first day saw earnings of 5.9 million dollars, the biggest opening in the history of Chinese film, according to statistics from entertainment research group EntGroup Inc.
Its weekly box office is estimated to have reached 72 million dollars as of Dec. 19, also the highest for a Chinese film.
The film, a sequel to the 2010 movie "Lost on Journey," is expected to gross more than 100 million dollars during its run, a feat achieved by few Chinese movies.
Lead actor and director Xu Zheng said Wednesday that he did not expect such a great market response.
Wang Changtian, head of Enlight Media, which distributed the film, attributed the film's success to Xu and the performances of his fellow stars Wang Baoqiang, Huang Bo and Tao Hong.
Huang first became known to Chinese audiences with his 2006 film "Crazy Stone," a film that helped clear the way for other low-budget films to achieve market success.
The strong performance of "Lost" also pulled up domestic films' share of 2012's total ticket sales.
Domestic films accounted for about 54 percent of total ticket sales last year, but only accounted for 35 percent in the first six months of this year, as the government allowed an extra 14 U.S. films to enter cinemas this year.
Noted playwright Ning Caishen said the film's plot, cast and publicity have made it the greatest "dark horse" of the year.
Some have attributed the film's high sales to its release date, as it debuted eight days before it was scheduled to be released.
Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" had already entered its fourth week by the time "Lost" came out, while Feng Xiaogang's "Back to 1942" had been out for two weeks, creating a vacuum period for the film.
"Simple funny comedies are really too rare in the film market. Audiences are too hungry," said Zhengban Xiaodong, head of the public relations and cooperation department of Sohu Video. He thought that the film is not so good as it is advertised.
"Lost in Thailand" tells the story of two company managers scrambling to obtain contract authorization from the company's biggest shareholder. Hilarity ensues when the duo travels to Thailand to search for the secluded shareholder.
"I want to watch the movie again. I'd rather laugh to death than wait to die on the so-called doomsday," "Ranx" joked on weibo.com, China's most popular twitter-like microblogging service.
The Chinese film market is entering its busiest season, with dozens of competitive films heading to big screen, including "The Flying Guillotines," "The Last Tycoon" and Jackie Chan starred "Chinese Zodiac 12."
In January, Hollywood blockbusters "Skyfall" and "Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" will also be released on the mainland.
China's film industry earned 2.3 billion U.S. dollars in the box office from January to November, surpassing 13.12 billion yuan in 2011, according to figures from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.
Ticket sales in China overtook those of Japan in the first quarter of the year, making China the world's second-biggest film market.