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China Box Office Enjoys $61 Million Weekend as ‘Detective Vs Sleuths’ Opens Second

Hong Kong-made crime action film “Detective Vs Sleuths” earned a solid $23.1 million (RMB155 million) in its opening at the mainland China box office, but it was unable to dislodge sentimental local drama film “Lighting Up the Stars” from a third weekend win.

Nevertheless, having two Chinese-language films going strongly raised the nationwide box office total above $61 million. That was the highest weekend score since the Chinese New Year high in February, which occurred before the current COVID wave in China. Further cinema re-openings likely also helped.

“Lighting Up the Stars” earned $27.7 million (RMB186) between Friday and Sunday, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway. That was a 38% drop compared with its second weekend. And after three weekends in cinemas, it has accumulated $177 million (RMB1.19 million).

“Detective Vs Sleuths” sees Wai Ka-fai, a writer-director who is also a longtime Johnnie To collaborator, re-team with actor Sean Lau (aka Lau Ching-wan), the star of 2007’s “Mad Detective.” The Emperor Motion Picture-produced tale sees Lau as a retired and stressed-out former cop on the trail of a serial killer, who appears to be tidying up loose ends in a series of cold cases.

In third place in the chart, “Jurassic World: Dominion” earned a further $6.3 million (RMB 42.5 million). That gives it a cumulative since June 10, of $144 million (RMB967 million).

Fourth place saw the debut of “Octonauts: The Caves of Sac Actun,” which opened only on Saturday and earned $2.6 million (RMB17.5 million) over two days. Including earlier previews, it has a cumulative of $6 million.

Alibaba’s youth drama “One Week Friends” managed $500,000 (RMB 3.6 million) in its fourth weekend, giving it a cumulative of $17.6 million.

Some 85% of cinemas were open by the middle of last week. And on Friday many in Shanghai were allowed to reopen for the first time since March 10 when the city was forced into a dramatic lockdown.

But the Shanghai Film Bureau ruling did not apply to all the cinemas in the city and new virus clusters mean that restrictions continue to apply in many districts. State media reported that 47% of Shanghai cinemas were in operation on Friday, the first day of relaxation.

In the past, Shanghai has contributed nearly 6% of nationwide box office. But it remains unlikely that level will be attained for some while. The city’s cinemas will be required to operate below 50% capacity, hold 20-minute disinfection breaks between screenings and require all customers to provide a negative nucleic acid test from the previous 72 hours.

Straining operators’ ability to recover still further, food and drink sales are not permitted.

In Beijing, another major market, authorities on Wednesday unveiled what was hailed as the country’s first vaccine mandate. It would have required people entering entertainment and educational facilities for seniors and offline venues including training centers, libraries, museums, cinemas, art galleries, gyms, stadiums, and performance centers from Monday (July 11, 2022) to show proof of vaccination against COVID. After an outcry, the policy was scrapped two days later. Cinema patrons must instead provide a negative nucleic acid test from the previous 72 hours.

Artisan Gateway calculates the year-to-date box office total in China at $2.73 billion. That is more than 35% below 2021 levels.

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