Cultural Revolution movie 'Youth' tops China's box office as Pixar's 'Coco' continues its surge

“Youth,” the much-anticipated movie from acclaimed director Feng Xiaogang, scored with Chinese moviegoers when it hit theaters Friday, more than two months after its planned Oct. 1 release date.

The film grossed $44.4 million over the weekend, making it the top grossing movie, according to the film consulting firm Artisan Gateway.

Feng's latest work is a nearly two-hour coming-of-age story about a military art troupe during China’s Cultural Revolution. Adapted from Geling Yan’s novel of the same name, the story focuses on two characters, Liu Feng (Huang Xuan) and He Xiaoping (Miao Miao), as they navigate love, lust and violence against the backdrop of Mao-era song and dance. The film also includes scenes from the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979.

Film authorities abruptly delayed the film in October, shortly before the Communist Party’s 19th Congress — a sensitive, top-level political conclave — was set to commence.

Feng’s film studio announced it would “accept recommendations from various parties to adjust the film’s release schedule.” Whether the delay hurt the film’s receipts is unclear; some moviegoers expressed greater excitement after a longer wait.

The delay, however, cut into the returns for director Woo-ping Yuen’s “The Thousand Faces of Dunjia.” The fantasy-action film placed second last week with $31.9 million at the box office after being forced to share an opening weekend with “Youth.”

Film authorities typically reserve the latter half of December for domestic films. Disney’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” does not premiere in China until Jan. 5.

Pixar’s hit movie “Coco” continued its charmed run in China, hauling in an additional $26.8 million in ticket sales, bringing its four-week total to $155.1 million. The film, which ranked third at the box office last weekend, is already Pixar’s most popular ever in the Middle Kingdom. Last week it collected another trophy, becoming the fourth-most popular animated film in Chinese box-office history, according to Artisan Gateway.

Heyday Films’ “Paddington 2” added $10 million to its box office total. The animated bear has proved cuddly to Chinese audiences, earning $25.9 million since its release Dec. 8. The Paul King-directed film will hit U.S. theaters Jan. 12.

The meticulously animated “Loving Vincent” again finished fifth last week, riding excellent reviews on Chinese film website Douban.com. The film scored an 8.6-star rating based on more than 62,000 audience ratings, higher than any other film in the top five besides “Coco.” The Van Gogh biopic earned $4 million last week, bringing its two-week total to $8.3 million.

DeButts is a special correspondent.

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