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China box office: Jackie Chan's ‘Skiptrace’ leaps to top spot

The Jackie Chan-Johnny Knoxville action-comedy “Skiptrace” leaped to the top of the Chinese box office last week, taking in $62.8 million in its first four days in theaters.

The debut surpassed that of Chan’s last blockbuster, the 2015 period action film “Dragon Blade,” co-starring John Cusak and Adrien Brody, said film industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway. That swords-and-sandals movie, suffused with bloody fight scenes, earned more than $54.3 million in its first four days in theaters and about $120 million total in China but fared poorly overseas.

Whether “Skiptrace” can find more of a global audience remains to be seen. The movie, which was produced by Beijing Talent Media and originally slated for a Christmas 2015 release, won’t arrive in American theaters until Labor Day weekend.

When it was first announced, the film was slated to be directed by Sam Fell with Seann William Scott opposite Chan. In 2014, Renny Harlin replaced Fell and Scott was replaced by Johnny Knoxville. After filming got underway, tragedy struck the production when cinematographer Chan Kwok-Hung drowned in Hong Kong while filming in December 2014.

Directed by Harlin (“Die Hard 2”), “Skiptrace” centers on a Hong Kong detective (Chan) who must apprehend a gambler (Knoxville) who is key to helping him crack a case he’s been working on for years. The two end up on a road trip of sorts.

Chan’s Hollywood comedies like “Rush Hour” haven’t been huge hits with his Chinese fans, and comedies can be a challenge to sell cross-culturally in general.

In an interview with the L.A. Times last year, Knoxville said he was optimistic that “Skiptrace” might be able to bridge the cultural gap.

“The goal was hopefully it works in both places. I think physical comedy goes everywhere,” he said. “Sometimes we would do two versions of a joke, one for China and one for America. So we were trying to cover our bases on that kind of thing.”

In second place last week was Warner Bros.’ “Tarzan,” which opened Tuesday and took in $28 million in its first six days, according to Artisan. The film, which has earned more than $115 million stateside, hasn’t caught fire with Chinese audiences to the same degree. 

In third place was the holdover Hong Kong crime thriller “Cold War 2,” which earned $11.4 million in the seven days ending Sunday and has taken in $99.4 million in the last three weeks. 

Fourth place for the week was the Chinese animated film “Big Fish and Begonia,” which has taken in more than $82 million its July 8 release — a substantial feat for a film that was 12 years in the making and has no major animation studio behind it. The movie was produced by Enlight Pictures.

Fifth place went to the Huayi Bros.’ romantic comedy “When Larry Met Mary,” which took in $9.7 million last week for a cumulative gross of $26.4 million. 

“Doraemon: Nobita and the Birth of Japan,” the latest in the long-running Japanese animated series about a blue robot cat, didn’t make the top five. Japanese films rarely receive major releases in China, but last year, “Stand by Me Doraemon” was a huge hit at the Chinese box office, taking in more than $85 million. That film, though, was released in 3-D and was backed by a substantial marketing campaign.

Nicole Liu in The Times’ Beijing Bureau contributed to this report. 

julie.makinen@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter @JulieMakLAT.

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