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'Gone With the Bullets' shoots to top of China box office

China's box office has grossed $4.6 billion so far in 2014, up more $1 billion from 2013.

“Gone With the Bullets,” Jiang Wen’s highly anticipated follow-up to “Let the Bullets Fly” took top spot at the mainland China box office last week, debuting with $55.6 million in its first four days in theaters despite last-minute censorship concerns and mixed word-of-mouth. 

With the year coming to a close, China’s box office has grossed $4.6 billion so far in 2014, up more $1 billion from 2013, according to data from film industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway.

Jiang directed and stars in “Gone,” a 1920s-set satire that centers on a beauty pageant and subsequent killing. Some reviewers have panned the film as a too-busy mash-up of styles ranging from musicals to film noir.

The film’s Dec. 8 premiere in Beijing was canceled, with producers saying government censors had raised some eleventh-hour issues, though it was unclear what their specific objections were. (Jiang is certainly familiar with the censorship bureau -- the director was barred from making movies for several years after his 2000 film “Devils at the Doorstep” screened at the Cannes International Film Festival without the Chinese Film Bureau’s approval.)

“Gone With the Bullets,” co-produced by Columbia Pictures and distributed internationally by Sony, arrived in theaters as expected on Dec. 18, and accounted for more than half of the week’s total $91 million in box office, Artisan said.

In second place for the seven days ending Sunday was “Fleet of Time,” director Zhang Yibai’s nostalgic youth drama, which has now earned almost $84 million. The genre has been popular in recent years, with films such as “So Young” and “Tiny Times 3” also earning over $80 million, Artisan said.

December is generally reserved for domestic releases in mainland China, and local productions rounded out the top five last week. In third place was “Meet Miss Anxiety,” which has grossed about $24 million.

John Woo’s “The Crossing: Part 1,” a nautical romance set in the 1940s and based on the true story of an ill-fated ship that’s been called the “Chinese Titanic,” sank to fourth place. The movie has underperformed, grossing just $29 million since its release in early December.

In fifth place for the week was “Women Who Flirt,” Pang Ho-cheung’s romantic comedy that has sold $36.5 million in tickets to date.

Follow @JulieMakLAT for news from China

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