A big hit on its opening week-end was Zhang Yimou's blockbuster Curse of the Golden Flower which pulled in almost 100 million yuan on the mainland and set a new box office record for Chinese cinemas.
According to a spokesman from Beijing New Picture the 360-million-yuan (US$45 million) film has attracted huge audiences in just four days' of screenings and collected 96 million yuan (US$12.3 million) at box offices over the weekend. This significantly surpassed Zhang's previous record when his film Hero raked in 53 million (US$6.8 million) yuan over the same period in 2002. It also eclipses Chen Kaige's The Promise which earned 74 million yuan (US$9.4 million) in four days last year. It brought in 15 million yuan (US$1.9 million) within five hours on its first day.
Industry insiders estimate that this film's box office may go over 300 million yuan and even set a new record of biggest selling movie of all time in China. Currently the top spot in China is Titanic which took 350 million yuan (US$44.7 million) and has held the box office record for 12 years.
Producer Zhang Weiping told major website portal Sina.com that this week would be even better as many people decide to see a movie after hearing recommendations of others.
Curse of the Golden Flower has received a much more favorable reception than Weiping's last production Hero. While the new film did receive some unfavorable reviews the director said negative voices were normal for all productions. "Audience feedback is more important to us and most of them have been positive,"he said.
Weiping also revealed that cinemas in Sichuan, Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces are asking for more copies of the film. Publicist Yang Yang reckons the total number of copies of the movie in circulation will come to around 900.
The box office takings for the film are expected to keep growing with special overnight screenings planned for Christmas Eve in a number of cinemas.
The box office income in Shanghai alone has reached 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million). This is 11 percent of the total figure in China. In contrast, Jia Zhangke's Still Life which won the Golden Lion prize at this year's Venice Film Festival, had a bleak beginning in ticket sales, according to Shanghai United Cinema Lines, the city's largest chain. It also officially opened last Thursday, December 14.
The Curse of the Golden Flower is proving a real curse for other movies! Over the weekend ticket sales for other movies like Battle of Wits and The Knot were estimated to be less than 500,000 yuan (US$63,937).
"Local ticket sales for Curse may even roar to 25 million yuan (US$3.1 million) amid the festive season of Christmas and New Year surpassing Chen Kaige's The Promise shown at the same time last year," said Wu Hehu, the cinema chain's deputy general manager.
The opening weekend take for The Promise was 8.82 million yuan (US$1.12 million) in the city. It finally made 210 million yuan (US$26.8 million) in ticket sales on the Chinese mainland. Paradise Warner Cinema City has sold one million yuan worth of tickets to Curse but only 10,000 yuan for Still Life.
"Our theaters were nearly 90 percent full for Curse over the weekend," said Li Lan, manager of the cinema. "Now the movie has more than 20 screenings every day. We've received plenty of calls inquiring about screening times."
Chen Xiaohong, manager of Studio City Cinema, said opening weekend ticket revenues for Curse had surpassed 900,000 yuan (US$115,086) at her cinema better than that of The Promise and Feng Xiaogang's The Banquet.
"But Still Life attracted just a handful of audience members taking only several thousand yuan in ticket sales," she added.
(China.org.cn, Shanghai Daily, CRI December 19, 2006)