Chinese director Feng Xiaogang's epic film The Banquet, starring Zhang Ziyi, is heating up China's box offices following its September 14 debut.
The US$20 million film pulled in 55 million yuan (US$6.9 million) on its first weekend in Chinese theaters. Earlier this year, Chen Kaige's The Promise raked in 80 million yuan on its first weekend, while Zhang Yimou's film Hero counted first-weekend receipts worth 52 million yuan.
Despite its box-office success, the film has been panned by critics for its stilted and awkward dialogue. Oddly enough, audiences have laughed at a few of the lines that weren't meant to be funny.
Gao Jun, manager of the New Film Association in Beijing, said criticism of the The Banquet might actually help its box office returns. "It has aroused the audience's curiosity in the film, making them even more willing to see it in the cinema".
Gao predicted earlier this month that he expected the total box office of The Banquet to reach 150 million yuan (US$19 million).
Set in the Five Dynasties and Ten States period (907-979), the film is a loose adaptation of Hamlet, dramatizing the tragedy of an empress, played by Zhang Ziyi, who is destroyed by palace struggles for power and the love of a man.
Director Feng Xiaogang's other successes include Cell Phone and Big Shot's Funeral, both released in 2003.
According to statistics from the film's distributors, box office income for The Banquet on its first weekend in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia was just over US$1 million.
(Xinhua News Agency September 21, 2006)