China box office: $100 million in a day on lunar new year breaks record

China ushered in the Year of the Monkey on Monday by going to the movies: The country set a new one-day box office record with $100.5 million worth of tickets sold, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said.

The 660-million-renminbi record was powered by high interest in director Stephen Chow's "The Mermaid," which opened Monday and accounted for about 40% of all ticket sales, or $40 million. That’s a record opening day for a Chinese film. Several other new releases topped the 100-million-renminbi ($15-million) mark, including “The Monkey King 2,” and the casino caper “From Vegas to Macau 3.”

Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is traditionally a peak moviegoing period, though foreign films are rarely allowed to screen during this period. (DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda 3,” which is classified as a U.S.-China coproduction, is the one notable exception this year.) Chinese government offices, schools and many businesses are closed for a week or longer. This year’s official holiday began Sunday and runs through Saturday.

The previous one-day record in mainland China was July 18, 2015, when the box office reached 425 million yuan, or $66 million at today's exchange rates.

While Monday marked a new high-water mark for the Chinese box office, it didn’t come close to shattering any North American records. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” alone sold $119 million in tickets on its opening weekend on Dec. 18.

Mainland China is the world’s No. 2 movie market. The total box office haul in China reached 44.1 billion renminbi last year (about $6.68 billion at current exchange rates), a 48.7% rise year-on-year. North America’s box office haul in 2015 was more than $11 billion, according to Rentrak.

Follow @JulieMakLAT for news from China

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