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Chinese box office: 'Dad, Where Are We Going?' on top

BEIJING — Mainland China’s lunar new year holiday box office got off to a sizzling start this weekend, with an expensive, effects-heavy 3-D telling of “The Monkey King” and a movie based on a hit reality TV show about celebrity dads and their kids taking in a combined $90 million.

“The Monkey King,” starring Chow Yun Fat, Aaron Kwok and Donnie Yen, raked in more than $51.1 million (306 million yuan) in its first three days in theaters, data from box-office tracking service EntGroup showed. It appears to be the first Chinese film to reach $50 million in just three days, movie website Mtime reported.

REEL CHINA: Coverage of the film industry in China

“Dad, Where Are We Going?” -- the spinoff from a reality TV show of the same name about fathers trying to hack it in the outdoors with their young pampered offspring -- took in more than $40.8 million in its first three days of release, including nearly $15 million its first day, a record for a 2-D Chinese film, according to state-run media.

“Dad, Where Are We Going?” actually sold about 500,000 more tickets than “The Monkey King,” according to EntGroup from Friday to Sunday, but the Chinese action-legend film’s grosses got a boost from pricier IMAX and 3-D tickets.

“Dad, Where Are We Going?” has become a cultural phenomenon since it debuted in China in October. The top-rated show, adapted from a South Korean program, has spawned parenting books, and several young stars of the program have landed lucrative endorsement deals. In the film, the fathers and their kids visit a wildlife park and have to complete tasks such as making dumplings and brushing animals’ teeth. 

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“The Monkey King,” based on an ancient legend, may prove to be one of the top grossing Chinese movies ever worldwide, as the film was released in more than 30 countries, including Singapore and Russia, as the lunar new year holiday began Friday. Overseas presales were said to total almost $30 million.

Overall, China’s box office grosses for the 2014 lunar-new-year week look to far exceed last year’s haul. In 2013, total box office for the holiday week was about $126 million, but this year the first three days’ total has already exceeded $104 million.

Disney’s “Frozen” will hit Chinese theaters Wednesday.

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