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'Monkey King' breaks 'Kung Fu Panda 2' record in China as 'Monster Hunt' surges

Box-office records continued to drop like flies last week in China as the homegrown "Monkey King: Hero Is Back" surpassed "Kung Fu Panda 2" to become the top-grossing animated film in Chinese history and the live-action/animated "Monster Hunt" became the top-grossing Chinese movie of all time.

"Monster Hunt" has pulled in $222.1 million since its July 16 release, film industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway said Tuesday. That's almost as much as Universal Pictures' "Jurassic World" and hot on the heels of "Avengers: Age of Ultron." With a $114-million take in the seven days ending Sunday, it was the No. 1 film of the week, and the question now is whether "Monster Hunt" can top the performance of last year's "Transformers: Age of Extinction" to become the second-highest-grossing film of all time in China, behind only Universal's "Furious 7."

"Monster Hunt" was directed by Hong Kong native Raman Hui, a veteran of DreamWorks Animation films including "Shrek," "Shrek 2," and "Shrek the Third," which he co-directed. It was produced by Bill Kong's Edko Films.

The movie centers on the story of a baby monster king who looks like a white radish. With the monster kingdom riven by civil war, the pregnant queen flees to the human world and transfers her unborn son to a human man, who after a brief and comical pregnancy "births" the monster. The human man and a monster-hunting woman with martial arts skills work together to bring the monster baby to a big city where they plan to sell it, but the two end up bonding with the creature -- and each other -- as they care for it.

In second place for the seven days ending Sunday was "Pancake Man," a superhero sendup of sorts distributed by Wanda Media. The movie earned $70 million last week and has a cumulative gross of $140 million, Artisan said. It should cross the 1-billion-renminbi ($166-million) barrier this week.

In third place for the week was "Monkey King," which has now earned a total of $108 million, surpassing "Kung Fu Panda 2," which earned about $96 million in 2011. Directed by Tian Xiaopeng, "Monkey King" was completed on a reported $13-million production budget. 

A Chinese remake of the 1994 Robert Downey Jr.-Marisa Tomei romcom "Only You," starring Tang Wei and Liao Fan, opened with $7.7 million.

Rounding out the top 5 was another animation, "Seer 5," with $6.7 million in sales. 

The local films have benefited from a blackout period on major foreign releases. Chinese authorities regularly impose such a ban during the peak summer moviegoing weeks to give homegrown titles a boost. "Jurassic World" was the last big Hollywood studio film to open in China, with movies including "Minions" and "Pixels" still not in theaters. 

Year to date, mainland China's box office has grossed nearly $4.1 billion and by the end of next month could surpass the total earnings for 2014 -- $4.8 billion.  

Follow @JulieMakLAT for news from China

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