Big-budget films gear up for China's vacation market

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With China's National Day holiday week beginning on Oct 1, the battle of potential blockbusters for the lucrative vacation market is about to begin.

Major films that are set to compete this fall include "The Foreigner, "starring Jackie Chan, and comedies "Never Say Die" and "City of Rock." [Photo provided to] 

Latest figures from major online ticket sites, such as Maoyan and Taopiaopiao, show that 11 new movies will premiere around or during the holiday week.

As this year's Mid-Autumn Festival will fall on Oct 4, the vacation will extend through Oct 8.

Usually predicting the winner is a hot topic at this time of the year, but this year is looking a bit different.

The movies that were anticipated to become hits but surprisingly aren't part of the Golden Week release have also caught eyeballs and are generating online buzz.

A poster of "Never Say Die." [Photo provided to] 

Such movies include the crime thriller "The Liquidator," comedy "Girls 2" and fantasy drama "The Golden Monk."

Chinese media reported that "The Liquidator" failed to gain a screening license and "Girls 2" changed the release date concerned it may fail in box office under the fierce competition.

"The Golden Monk," directed by the prolific Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Jing, will see a deferred release to avoid two of his movies fighting for the same box-office season. "Chasing the Dragon," his latest entry based on a drug lord's true story, will hit screens on Sept 30. With Donnie Yen and Andy Lau, the movie has a bigger cast and budget than "The Golden Monk."

Still photo from film, "Chasing the Dragon." [Photo provided to] 

For most industry watchers, the change signifies that six movies, or around half of the total new releases, are competent rivals for the leading box-office slots.

The rest, such as the animated feature "The Legend of the Giant Panda" and art-house title "The Portrait of My Mother," have smaller budgets and lesser-known cast members. So, they are less likely to become sleeper hits, says Beijing-based industry analyst Jiang Yong.

But there are still exciting options.

A still from "City of Rock." [Photo provided to] 

A rarely-seen screen conflict between Chinese kung fu legend Jackie Chan and the former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan, "The Foreigner" is anticipated to be a winner.

A scene from "Axel 2: Adventures of the Spacekids." [Photo provided to] 

The Chinese animated film, "Axel 2: Adventures of the Spacekids," will open across the Chinese mainland on Oct 1, the only family audience-targeted animated feature for the weeklong National Day holiday. It is the sequel to the first Axel movie, "Kunta" (2013). The film, which is the first 3-D sci-fi animated film in China, has a lot of special effects.

Starring Hollywood star Orlando Bloom, the action thriller "S.M.A.R.T. Chase" promises a visual feast for movie fans. The movie set for release on Sept 30 is Bloom's first Chinese film, for which he has insisted on shooting action scenes without standins and toured a dozen mainland cities to promote it.

A still from "S.M.A.R.T. Chase" [Photo provided to]

But Chan, Brosnan and Bloom are seen to be beaten at the box office by mainland stars, according to ticket presale figures of Maoyan.

"Never Say Die," a gender-exchange fantasy comedy, is so far beating "The Foreigner" to top the premiere (on Sept 30) presale charts. "Never Say Die," starring popular comedians Ma Li and Ai Lun, accounted for 48.8 percent of that day's presale total, followed by "The Foreigner" at 32.1 percent.

"City of Rock," a comedy about an unlikely band starring the comedian Dong Chengpeng, and actor Li Chen's directorial debut "Sky Hunter," both slated to open on Sept 29, are performing well in presale positions.

"Sky Hunter," with support from China's military, showcases the achievements of the Chinese air force. [Photo provided to] 

They account for 48 and 45.3 percent of that day's presold total.

The figures are encouraging for investors.

While Yu Dong, CEO of Bona Film Group, believes that the market is big enough to have multiple winners, Liu Debin, deputy general manager of Poly Culture Group Corporation Limited, says: "Most Chinese will watch two movies on average during the eight-day vacation."

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