Chinese satire tops box office despite claims by director that Wanda Cinemas sabotaged his film

Fan Bingbing of "I Am Not Madame Bovary."
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

A long-awaited Chinese satire swept the country’s box office last weekend, despite the director’s accusations of sabotage by a leading theater chain.

Longtime director Feng Xiaogang accused Wanda Cinemas of limiting “I Am Not Madame Bovary” screenings in its theaters and reducing the film’s box office success. The movie grossed $29.9 million over its debut weekend.

Feng delivered his complaints in an online letter to Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, who owns the largest cinema chain in mainland China and is known for its close ties to the Chinese government. Wang did not respond, but his son, Wang Sicong did.

“Aren’t we allowed to reduce screen time because we think your film is no good?” he wrote on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.


The film, which is viewed in a rare circular format, follows a woman on her decade-long battle with China’s legal system to dismiss a fake divorce.

Wang has made aggressive moves to expand Wanda’s reach into Hollywood. The company, which already owns AMC Theatres, this year acquired Golden Globe Awards producer Dick Clark Productions for about $1 billion, and paid $3.5 billion for Legendary Entertainment, which helped produce such hits as “Jurassic World.” The deals have drawn scrutiny from some U.S. lawmakers about the potential for Chinese influence to censor American movies or alter content to further Chinese interests. Wang has dismissed such claims as unfounded.

Elsewhere in China’s box office, “Doctor Strange,” the Marvel Studios film about a surgeon turned sorcerer, dropped to second place with $19.4 million. This puts its total at $101.9 million in just over two weeks.

American movies also scored the third- and fourth-highest spots. “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” an Iraq war drama directed by Ang Lee, drew $8 million. It tied with “Deepwater Horizon,” a Summit Entertainment movie based on the 2010 explosion of an offshore drilling rig that flooded the Gulf of Mexico with oil.

“One Piece Film: Gold,” a Japanese animated fantasy involving pirates, grossed $4.6 million.

Jessica Meyers is a special correspondent