China box office tops $1 billion in February, propelled by 'The Mermaid'

A mermaid, a panda and a monkey king helped China rack up more than $1 billion in movie ticket sales in February, outpacing the United States for the second year running.

February is prime movie-going season in China with the nation marking the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival holiday. Last year, China's February box office tally of $650 million edged out the U.S. total by about $10 million. Despite the success of "Deadpool" stateside (the film has not been shown in China), China's February receipts are expected to outpace those of the United States by several hundred million dollars.

Stephen Chow's "The Mermaid" has been at the front of the pack, earning $480 million in its three weeks in theaters, figures from film industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway showed Tuesday. The comedic film about a greedy, environment-destroying property mogul who falls in love with a mermaid, was No. 1 again last week, with $62.5 million in tickets sold. The special-effects-laden 3D film is now the highest-grossing movie ever in China.

Lunar New Year holdover "The Monkey King 2" claimed the No. 2 spot last week with $19 million, besting the Weinstein Co.'s "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2," which added $15 million to its take for a cumulative gross of $36.1 million.

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In fourth place for the seven days ending Sunday was "The Man from Macau III," the third installment in the casino caper series.

Rounding out the top five was DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda 3," which has earned $149 million in China since its late January debut. Last week, the movie became the top-grossing animated film ever in China, besting last summer's "Monkey King: Hero Is Back."

"Kung Fu Panda 3" has sold $128.5 million of tickets so far in the United States and Canada, according to comScore.

Follow @JulieMakLAT on Twitter for news from China.

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