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Youth drama sinks John Woo's 'The Crossing' at Chinese box office

No. 1 film 'Fleet of Time,' directed by Zhang Yibai, took in $33.7 million after opening Friday in China

The nostalgic romantic youth drama “Fleet of Time” sunk director John Woo’s much-anticipated nautical epic “The Crossing: Part 1” at the Chinese box office in the seven days ending Sunday. 

“Fleet of Time,” directed by Zhang Yibai, took in $33.7 million after opening Friday, figures from box-office consulting firm Artisan Gateway showed. Advance screenings brought in some additional cash, putting the film’s total haul so far at $37.1 million. Films that hark back to the 1980s and ‘90s have done particularly well at China’s box office in recent years.

“The Crossing,” meanwhile, opened Tuesday and managed to pull in just $18.1 million over its first six days. The film, loosely based on a true story of a ship that sank in 1949 during the Nationalists’ flight to Taiwan amid China’s civil war, has been dubbed China’s “Titanic,” with a second part due out later.

But the early returns indicate that Woo’s film is unlikely to reach the box-office heights touched by James Cameron’s blockbuster.  “The Crossing: Part 1” did about as much business in its first week as Woo’s “Red Cliff: Part 1” did in upon its release 2008 -- when China’s box office was a mere fraction as large as it is today. “Red Cliff: Part 1” in total earned $51.8 million, while the second installment took in $42 million in 2009, Artisan said.

In third place for the week was “Women Who Flirt,” a domestic production that’s now grossed $27 million total. 

Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” was in fourth, racking up nearly an additional $10 million and bringing its total haul on the mainland to $118.1 million. That’s on par with the earnings of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” making the space epic one of the top-performing imports of 2014.

“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” however, remains the king of the Chinese box office this year, with more than $300 million in ticket sales.

In fifth place for the week was DreamWorks Animation’s “Penguins of Madagascar,” which has taken in about $36.4 million to date.

December was expected to be a strong month for domestic productions, with Woo’s film debuting and the release of Jiang Wen’s actioner “Gone With the Bullets” scheduled for Dec. 18. “Gone” is a follow-up to Jiang’s 2010 smash hit “Let the Bullets Fly.”

However, producers of the film said this week that its premiere had been delayed amid last-minute censorship issues.

The producers quickly apologized for the delay in getting final approval from the film bureau. "We tried our best, but unfortunately all the conditions are not in place. Thanks for your understanding. We will have the premiere on another date," the film’s production company, Buyilehu Films, said in a statement via social media.

“Gone” stars Ge You, Shu Qi, Zhou Yun and Jiang himself. Set in 1920s Shanghai, the movie tells the story of a notorious beauty pageant and its tragic aftermath. 

Producers insisted Tuesday that they were still on track to release the film Dec. 18, but refused to elaborate on the specific issues that led to the delay of the premiere.

Jiang is certainly familiar with the censorship bureau -- the director was barred from making movies for seven years after his 2000 film “Devils at the Doorstep” screened at the Cannes Film Festival without Chinese authorities' approval.

Special correspondent Sean Silbert in the Times' Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

Follow @JulieMakLAT for news from China

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