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'Us and Them' becomes first film by mainland Chinese female director to gross more than 1 billion yuan

'Us and Them' becomes first film by mainland Chinese female director to gross more than 1 billion yuan
Dwayne Johnson in a scene from the Warner Bros. movie "Rampage," which has been a hit in China. (Warner Bros.)

The Chinese-language romance "Us and Them," despite being marred by a ticketing fraud controversy, officially dominated the Chinese box office last week, raking in $193.4 million to become the fifth highest-grossing Chinese movie this year.

The film's director, Taiwanese singer-actress Rene Liu, became the first female mainland director with a film that exceeded 1 billion yuan in revenue, according to the film consulting firm Artisan Gateway.

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The film — a romance about two strangers who meet on a train during the country's annual Spring Festival travel rush — earned a half million more than last year's Hong Kong-Chinese romance film "Book of Love," directed by Xue Xiaolu.

On Tuesday, Netflix bought multi-territory rights to the film. Yet its success has sparked controversy, as its distributor, Maoyan, faces allegations of selling tickets at deeply discounted prices to artificially inflate audience numbers. The producers of a competing film, "Screaming Live," are suing the company for unfair competition.

Box office fraud remains fairly common in China, despite a crackdown on the practice last year. Authorities punished 326 local cinemas for misappropriating funds, with some theaters fined and others suspended.

In second place last week was actor and producer Xu Zheng's "A or B," a thriller about an unscrupulous investor caught up in a "Saw"-style trap. The film earned $48.7 million in two weeks, according to Artisan Gateway.

Warner Brother's "Rampage," the only Hollywood film on last week's top five, approached a billion yuan in receipts after a month in theaters. The film, an action-comedy starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, failed to outperform the studio's recent Steven Spielberg-directed hit "Ready Player One," which grossed $219.9 million in the Middle Kingdom.

The Indian fantasy film "Baahubali 2: The Conclusion" came in last, earning $7.8 million in its first three days in theaters last week.

For more news from Asia, follow @JRKaiman on Twitter

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