Local films clean up at China box office as imports shut out

'Transformers: Age of Extinction' finished out a strong run in China with nearly $300 million

“The Continent,” the directorial debut of Chinese writer and race car driver Han Han, took pole position at the mainland box office last week, earning $48.5 million. Meanwhile, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” finished out its strong run with nearly $300 million.

Paramount Pictures’ fourth installment in the “Transformers” franchise is already the top-grossing movie ever in China, and the film had taken in $298.5 million as of Sunday, industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway said Tuesday. The studio was still doing final accounting and the ultimate figure is likely to cross $300 million when all is said and done, Artisan said.

“The Continent” is a nostalgic road movie about three friends who set off on a trip from eastern China to the remote west, and along the way encounter love interests and various forms of trouble.

Han, 31, is a countercultural icon whose oft-censored online social criticisms have made him a darling among Chinese youth; though little-known outside of China, Time magazine in 2010 designated him as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. 

Mainland authorities typically reserve the bulk of July and August for domestic films, refusing to schedule foreign blockbusters during the high weeks of summer. With no major Hollywood releases in the offing, local films have been shining at the cinemas in recent weeks.

In second place for the seven days ending Sunday was the local horror film “The House That Never Dies,” which earned $27.7 million in the week and now has racked up $53.5 million in receipts.

In third place was “Tiny Times 3,” the third installment in author Guo Jingming’s series about a group of young Chinese women. Like Han, Guo is a young author with a strong following. The movie took in $25 million for the week and now and has a 10-day total of nearly $77 million.

“Transformers” held the fourth place for the week, earning nearly $14 million, Artisan said, while fifth place went to the animated feature “The Magical Brush,” which opened with $4.8 million.

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