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'Rogue One' surges, but China's box office still drops 30% from a year ago

China’s box office opened to a dismal start in 2017, receiving only $246 million in ticket receipts, a 30% drop compared with the same period last year.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” topped the charts last week, raking in $30.6 million in its first three days, according to consulting firm Artisan Gateway.

Lucasfilm’s epic adventure film, which stars Felicity Jones and Diego Luna alongside Chinese actors Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen, received high praise from Chinese moviegoers: It garnered 7.5 out of 10 on the fan rating site Douban.

Reviewers applauded the performances and depictions of their fellow countrymen.

But the movie’s strong showing wasn’t enough to counter an overall dampening in ticket sales in China. Box office receipts in the world’s second-largest film market rose nearly 4% last year, a drastic fall compared with a roughly 50% increase in 2015, according to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

Analysts attribute the slowdown to several factors, including a paucity of strong domestic films, a decrease in film subsidies from China’s online ticket platforms and a government crackdown on box office fraud that inflated ticket sales in previous years.

Chinese romantic comedy “Some Like It Hot,” came in close behind “Rogue One.” The New Classics Pictures film, starring Yan Ni and Xiao Shenyang, pulled in $28 million for a 10-day total of $52.3 million.

Director Ding Sheng’s “Railroad Tigers,” starring Kung Fu star Jackie Chan, ranked third, grossing $15.9 million in its third week. The action comedy has earned $87 million since it opened Dec. 23, making it Ding’s highest-grossing film. Ding has collaborated with Chan for years. The martial arts celebrity starred in Ding’s two other action comedies, “Police Story” and “Little Big Soldier.”

Zhang Yimou’s “The Great Wall,” which has racked up $159.5 million since Dec 16, sank three notches to fourth place, followed by Alibaba Pictures’ romantic comedy “See You Tomorrow,” which has drawn $67.4 million since Dec 23.

“The Great Wall,” which cost $150 million to make, is the most expensive U.S.-China co-production to date and a test case for cross-border collaboration.

Legendary East — the Asia arm of Burbank’s Legendary Entertainment — teamed with China’s LeVision Pictures, state-run China Film Group and Los Angeles-based Universal Pictures to bring the story to the big screen.

Yingzhi Yang is a special correspondent.

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