'The Hundred Regiments Offensive' tramples box office opponents in China

'The Hundred Regiments Offensive' tramples box office opponents in China
Series T-800 Robot in "Terminator Genisys." (Paramount Pictures)

Before watching tanks rolling through Tiananmen Square in heart of the Chinese capital to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, mainland moviegoers flocked to support a movie about a famous battle during the war last week.

"The Hundred Regiments Offensive" topped the mainland box office by taking in $38.4 million, according to data from film industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway. In a country where movies can easily be banned from theaters, a patriotic movie strongly endorsed by authorities is capable of pulling in a large number of viewers, who are mostly organized or even forced by their companies or work units to watch the movie.

In addition to introducing a five-day ban of entertainment programs on TV, Chinese authorities issued political directives urging organized viewings of the film. Many moviegoers complained on Chinese social media that they were being dragged by their companies to watch the film.

But because of explosive growth in China's film industry in recent years, political directives were not enough to help a movie break box office records anymore. Unlike "The Founding of a Republic" which became the top-grossing domestic film after taking in $64.8 million in 2009, "The Hundred Regiments Offensive" grossed a total of $60.6 million after 10 days in Chinese theaters, falling far short of the $208 million generated by  "Monster Hunt" in its first 10 days of release.

After a summer filled with successful homegrown films such as "Monster Hunt," "Pancake Man" and "Monkey King: Hero Is Back," cumulative box office on the mainland stood at $4.7 billion by the end of last week, approaching last year's full-year box office of $4.8 billion.

Despite taking in just $4.7 million last week, "Monster Hunt" only needed to generate $17.3 million in its last 10 days in Chinese theaters to top the $395-million record set by Universal Pictures' "Furious 7" this spring and become the highest-grossing film ever on the mainland.

Paramount’s “Terminator: Genisys” added $25.8 million last week, pushing its cumulative box office on the mainland to $108 million, making up for its disappointing $89-million stateside performance.

Two domestic films, "The Dead End" and "Office," took the third and fourth spots on the mainland's box office last week, taking in $21.7 million and $6.7 million respectively.

With the end of a two-month blackout period of foreign films and a week of patriotic propaganda, Paramount's "Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation" and Universal Pictures' "Minions" are set to hit Chinese theaters this week, more than one month after their releases stateside.

Tommy Yang in The Times' Beijing bureau contributed to this report.