'Journey to the West' sequel was top grossing movie in China for the Lunar New Year

Children watch a 3D movie at a community theatre in Hefei, Anhui province.
William Hong | Reuters
Children watch a 3D movie at a community theatre in Hefei, Anhui province.

Single-day ticket sales on Lunar New Year's Day broke records in China this year, with the top grossing movie capturing a broad sweep of Asia from the Middle Kingdom to India.

Leading the pack was "Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back," the sequel to Hong Kong director-actor Stephen Chow's 2013 film 'Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons." The adventure-comedy flick is based on the 16th century novel of the same name, which details the travels of Buddhist monk Xuanzang and his disciples to India.

Overall, ticket sales hit a total of 802 million yuan ($116.60 million) and single-day ticket sales for 'Journey to the West' topped nearly half at 352 million yuan on the first day of the Lunar New Year, according to online ticketing platform Maoyan.

The film previously holding the record was Chow's 2015 offering, 'The Mermaid,' which raked in 270 million yuan ($39.26 million) on its opening day, state media Xinhua stated.

India proved to be a recurring theme among Chinese filmmakers over the Lunar New Year, with several movies set in the country. Among these were kung fu comedy 'Buddies in India' and the Jackie Chan-fronted "Kungfu Yoga," which earned nearly 187 million yuan and 137 million yuan respectively on Lunar New Year's Day.

In particular, Kungfu Yoga was commissioned under a treaty signed in 2014 that aimed to encourage the sharing of resources in film production and distribution between India and China. The action comedy was filmed in India and also starred actors Sonu Sood, Amyra Dastur and Disha Patani.

The co-production treaty provides Indian producers with the opportunity of bypassing China's strict quotas on the number of foreign films that can be screened each year.

Rounding up the top 5 films at the Chinese box office were the drama "Duckweed" and the Chinese-produced animated children's film: "Boonie Bears: Entangled Worlds."

With a week-long national holiday in place, the Lunar New Year is typically the biggest week for the movies in China. This is in part due to the slate of movies that are made specifically for Lunar New Year audiences looking for light-hearted fare over the New Year break.

In addition, with more Chinese families adopting the newfound tradition of going to the movies as part of the holiday festivities, ticket sales in China tend to surge significantly during this time of year, entertainment weekly Variety reported. The boost in ticket sales for locally-produced films is further aided by the blackout enforced by regulators preventing foreign films from being screened during the week of the Lunar New Year, Variety added.

The boost in ticket sales this year will no doubt to be welcomed by the local entertainment industry, after it experienced the lowest growth in total ticket sales on year in 2016.

($1 = 6.88 Chinese yuan)

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