China’s box office surges with ‘Detective Chinatown 2’ and other homegrown hits during Spring Festival

A promotion for the film "Detective Chinatown 2," which helped fuel record ticket sales during China's Spring Festival.
(TPG / Getty Images)

Movie ticket sales during China’s Spring Festival holiday reached a new pinnacle last week.

Four major domestic premieres over the week-long Spring Festival holiday, which ended Feb. 21, contributed to total earnings of more than $900 million, the highest week-long total on record.

The box office results were nearly 70% higher than in the same period in 2017, according to China’s media regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio Film and Television of China.


China imposes a regular, but informal, ban on foreign film imports every June through August, as well as the most lucrative period of the year — the Spring Festival holiday — to boost domestic competition. The period is widely called China’s “domestic film protection period.” Marvel’s “Black Panther” will be the next major foreign movie to hit Chinese theaters, and will premiere March 9.

Until then, homegrown films will dominate multiplexes. “Detective Chinatown 2” conquered last week’s chart after an intense battle with other domestic titles, collecting $263.2 million for a total of $420 million after 10 days, according to film consulting firm Artisan Gateway.

The Chen Sicheng-directed comedy thriller is now the best-selling 2D film ever released in China, surpassing “Monster Hunt” and “Furious 7” and the fourth highest grossing film ever in the Middle Kingdom. The film, set in New York’s Chinatown and starring Wang Baoqiang and Liu Haoran, has almost tripled its 2015 prequel’s total of $130.2 million.

Bona Film Group’s military action movie “Operation Red Sea,” directed by Dante Lam, was the second highest-grossing film last week with $262.4 million in box office receipts. After 10 days, it has a total of $336 million in revenue. Similar to last year’s blockbuster “Wolf Warrior 2,” the film has a high budget and fiercely propagandistic, a paean to China’s military strength.

In third place was the fantasy-comedy sequel “Monster Hunter 2,” directed by animation veteran Raman Hui. The film, after topping the weekly charts last week, lost steam as critics lambasted it online for having a weak storyline. It earned $130.4 million for a total of $321 million, putting it on track to overtake the original “Monster Hunt,” which had $369.6 million in total receipts.

The family animation “Boonie Bears: The Big Shrink” climbed one place to fourth last week. The series’ latest installment — and its best-selling — has proved a dark horse, adding an additional $44.2 million for a cumulative $84.7 million after 10 days.


The Soi Cheang-directed “The Monkey King 3: Kingdom of Women,” based on the Chinese literacy classic “Journey to the West,” dropped from third to fifth place, bringing in $27.1 million. It is running far behind its two predecessors, 2014’s “The Monkey King” and 2016’s “The Monkey King 2.” The latest iteration stars Aaron Kwok, Feng Shaofeng and Zhao Liying.