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Chinese films dominate China's box office as 'Youth' rules for a second week

Chinese films dominate China's box office as 'Youth' rules for a second week
Yang Caiyu, left, and Huang Xuan appear in a scene from the movie "Youth." (China Lion Film Distribution)

Chinese blockbusters took command of China’s box office last week, accounting for the four top films. And even though the country’s film authorities typically reserve the latter half of December for domestic movies, Pixar’s “Coco” hung on to a spot in the top five.

The period epic “Youth” dominated the Chinese box office for a second week, scooping up $77 million and bringing its two-week total to $125.3 million, according to the film consulting firm Artisan Gateway.

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The film was directed by Feng Xiaogang — who is sometimes called the "Chinese Spielberg" for his command of epic cinematic spectacles — and adapted from Geling Yan’s novel of the same name. Its story features a group of idealistic young women as they experience love, lust, betrayal and suffering while working in a military performing-arts troupe during the Cultural Revolution — a period of intense upheaval from 1966 to 1976 under Mao Tse-tung — and the Sino-Vietnamese war of 1979. It aims to illustrate the sophistication of young lives struggling during an era racked by loss and confusion.

China's Communist Party sees both historical events as highly sensitive, making the film's release — and relative lack of censorship — a somewhat unlikely triumph. “Youth” was originally slated to premiere nearly two months ago, but censors delayed its release in the run-up to the Communist Party’s 19th congress, a high-level political conclave that was held in October.

The film received mixed reviews online. Based on more than 180,000 audience ratings on Chinese film website Douban.com, “Youth” received 7.9 stars out of 10. Some viewers expressed disappointment; one blamed Feng for focusing "too much on showing the brutality of the war."

Ranked No. 2 at the box office was the Sino-Japanese co-produced fantasy mystery film “Legend of the Demon Cat,” which opened with $36.8 million in receipts. Directed by Chen Kaige, another blockbuster director, the film is about a hellish feline that wreaks havoc in Chang’an, the capital of the ancient Tang Dynasty. The film has benefited from a collaboration with the Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com, which allowed it an elaborate marketing campaign in several Chinese cities.

Heyi Pictures' action comedy “Bleeding Steel,” starring Jackie Chan, opened in third place with $30 million in its first three days in theaters. Its opening fell short of September’s “The Foreigner,” which also stars Chan.

Another Chinese suspense crime film, “The Liquidator,” also debuted Friday, opening with $22 million. Starring Deng Chao and Cecilia Liu, the film centers on a criminal psychologist and a forensic fingerprint expert working to solve a crime.

“Coco” rounded out the top five, adding $11.4 million in ticket sales. That brings its five-week total to $166.6 million. It is Pixar's highest-grossing film ever in China.

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