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Jackie Chan caper 'Kung Fu Yoga' tops China's box office during New Year holiday

Domestic films swept China’s box office during last week's Chinese New Year holiday, as state film regulators temporarily banned imported films to give domestic movies more room to cash in. 

The Jackie Chan action caper “Kung Fu Yoga” fared best last week, with $140.4 million in ticket sales, according to film industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway. The film totaled $179.5 million in 10 days, making it Jackie Chan’s highest-grossing film in China’s market. 

The action comedy didn’t open with a bang in the beginning of the weeklong Chinese New Year holiday, starting Jan 27 — it only brought in $39.1 million during its first two days — but its fortunes rose quickly due to strong word of mouth.

"Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back,” produced by veteran comedy director Stephen Chow, a sequel to Chow’s 2013 hit “Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons,” slipped to second last week, grossing $120.6 million. Its 10-day cumulative total reached $205.1 million. 

The film, based on a classic Chinese novel, set a single-day record of all time in China, hitting $51.8 million (356 million yuan) on Jan. 28. It outran the former record holder “Fast & Furious 7,” which was released in 2015 and racked up $49.5 million (340 million yuan) on its opening day in China.

Third place went to “Duckweed,” the second film directed by Chinese writer-turned-director Han Han, adding $73.5 million to its 10-day total of $92.1 million. The comedy-drama, starring Deng Chao and Eddie Peng, tells a lighthearted tale about a race car driver's relationship with his father.

“Buddies in India,” a Sino-India co-production directed by comedian Wang Baoqiang, took fourth place by earning $53 million, bringing its 10-day total to $97.8 million. Fifth place went to animation “Boonie Bears: Engtangled Worlds,” produced by Le Vision Pictures. 

China’s film regulators granted India two more titles in its annual 34-movie import quota, bringing the country's total to four. The move was tied to the good box office performance of the two India-themed films, “Buddies in India” and “Kung Fu Yoga,” amid China’s floundering film market.

Foreign titles won’t return to China’s cinemas until Feb 10, the opening day of “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” — an action thriller starring Vin Diesel — closely followed by the musical “La La Land,” which will open on Feb 14. 

During the New Year holiday, China generated a total of $486.2 million in box office receipts, seeing a 9% increase from the equivalent holiday period last year, the weakest growth since 2013. 

This year's apparent growth is strongly linked to major changes in the national box office reporting system. In January, China’s film regulators started to incorporate online booking fees, which range from 2 to 5 yuan ($0.30 to $0.70) per ticket, into box office grosses. These service fees go directly to online ticketing platforms, and do not directly benefit film production and distribution companies.  

Excluding the booking fees, this year’s Chinese New Year holiday only saw 1% box office growth, according to the state-run newspaper 21st Century Business Herald.

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