Mildly titillating romantic comedy “Big Red Envelope” topped the box office rankings in China as overall takings in the world’s biggest theatrical movie market amounted to a lowly $37.5 million over the weekend.

The new release title may be intended as a critique of obsessions with money, gifting culture and societal status – red packets are gifts of money in Chinese culture, given especially, but not exclusively, at Chinese New Year – but chunks of the audience were not buying it.

Online comments suggested that the film pulled its punches, that the central romance was too far-fetched, and that it was largely an excuse in male gratification with the camera lingering on Clara Lee’s curvy figure. She plays opposite reliable Bao Baier in the picture directed by Li Kelong.

The picture earned a woeful 4.7 out of 10 rating at online film discussion platform Douban, and somewhat better 8.4 score on ticketing platform Taopioaopiao. Another ticketing vendor Maoyan, where it earned an 8.5 rating, showed that more than 45% of the film’s audience came from fourth tier cities.

Not one for urban sophisticates, the film earned $8 million in three days according to data from Artisan Gateway.

Cancer drama, “A Little Red Flower” slipped from the first place that it had held for the three previous weekends and earned $7 million. That lifts its cumulative total to $197 million since its Dec. 31 outing.

Andy Lau-starring action film “Shock Wave 2” was not far behind. It earned $6.4 million in its fifth weekend. That gave it a running total of $175 million.

Chinese-made animation “Wish Dragon” held on to its fourth place, dropping a respectable 39% in its second weekend to record $3.4 million. After ten days of distribution in China it has grossed $13 million. In the world outside the Middle Kingdom, the film is to be available on Netflix after Sony abandoned theatrical release plans.

Fifth place belonged to “A Warm Hug” with a $3 million weekend score. After 25 days on release it has accumulated $122 million.

Artisan Gateway shows China’s year to date cumulative gross takings as $451 million, 30% up compared with the $350 million earned in the same period last year, when the coronavirus lockdown measures had only just started to bite.

What came next was a deeply painful period of nearly six months (late-January to mid July 2020) in which all Chinese cinemas were closed. It was followed by a swift recovery, but one largely powered by local Chinese titles as, by the second half of the year most Hollywood tentpoles were being rescheduled. That Hollywood drought has not let up.

 





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