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Mei Lanfang biopic cleans up at box offices
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A scene from Chen Kaige's new film 'Forever Enthralled'.

A scene from Chen Kaige's new film "Forever Enthralled". [beijingww.com] 

Director Chen Kaige's latest film, "Forever Enthralled," a biopic of the late Peking opera star Mei Lanfang, has had a great opening weekend with a box office income exceeding 42 millon yuan, or about 6.2 millon US dollars.

"This is a satisfying result," said Wong Li, spokesperson of the film's co-producer China Film Group. The total box office is expected to exceed 120 million, according to Wong.

According to Shanghai United Cinema Lines, the city's largest cinema chain, the movie reaped 3.7 million yuan (US$537,947) in the city since its global release last Thursday.

"It is a good performance for an arty film without many stunts and action scenes," said Gu Min, a marketing manager for the chain. "Chen's films still have a loyal fan base."

So far, Yonghua Cinema at Xujiahui has made more than 350,000 yuan from the film.

"The film has attracted many middle-aged people who understand traditional Chinese opera," said Li Lan, the manager of the cinema.

The film depicts Mei's 50-year career and his romances. Pop idol Leon Lai plays Mei, with actress Chen Hong playing his wife and Zhang Ziyi playing Meng Xiaodong, a female Peking opera star.

This is China's golden screening time. Every year in the run up to Christmas and the Spring Festival, the box offices are abuzz with the year's biggest releases.

From Thursday, "Forever Enthralled" will face competition from the romantic comedy "All About Women", made by Tsui Hark, and next week three more films open.

"Ip Man" is a semi-biographical account of Yip Man, a master of Wing Chun kungfu. Feng Xiaogang's highly anticipated comedy "If You Are The One" also premieres.

On Christmas Eve, action-packed Hong Kong police film "Lady Cop and Papa Crook" will hit mainland screens.

Among all these films, Feng's comedy, which stars comedian Ge You, is expected to be the biggest rival to "Forever Enthralled".

The movie, which is slated to open on December 18, revolves around a man's attempts to find a wife, but it will be a tight contest.

"Chen's film might be more popular in northern China, where there's a strong nostalgic ambience for Peking opera and a large number of Peking opera fans," said Chen Hua, a local movie buff.

(Shanghai Daily/CRI December 9, 2008)

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