"Transformers: Age of Extinction" keeps extending its lead over "Avatar" as the top-grossing movie ever in China, dominating the mainland box office for a third consecutive week and taking in $52 million in the seven days ending Sunday.
In its first 17 days in theaters in China, the Michael Bay film grossed $260 million, $36 million above the record set by "Avatar" in 2010, according to figures from Shanghai-based consulting firm Artisan Gateway. With two weeks left for the Paramount Pictures film in Chinese cinemas, it looks like it could reach the $300-million mark before it completes its run in the country.
The fourth film in the "Transformers" series was adored by its fans in China, despite negative reviews from critics and controversies surrounding its product-placement deals with Chinese companies. It took in $115 million in its second week in China while only generating $36 million the same week in the U.S. This past week, it sold $35 million more in tickets in China than in the U.S., where its total haul now stands at $209 million.
Last week, another Chinese company announced it intends to sue over what it claims is a breach in a product-placement agreement. Chongqing Wulong Karst National Park said the film failed to place the four Chinese characters spelling out "China Wulong" into a scene as agreed in a contract. Paramount sent a letter through its partner in China, M1905.com, explaining that it was a mistake during post-production. But Wulong wasn't satisfied with the answer and says it will go ahead with the lawsuit, though no papers have yet been filed.
Earlier, Beijing's Pangu Plaza hotel sued two middlemen who helped arrange its product-placement deal with Paramount in China.
These controversies didn't stop Chinese moviegoers from flocking to cinemas for the new installment of the "Transformers" series. Many wrote on Chinese social media websites that the possible appearances, or failed appearances, of Chinese brands just gave them more reasons to find out for themselves in theaters.
A lack of stiff competition seems to be helping "Transformers." China's media watchdog typically designates July and August as a "domestic movie protection" period when foreign blockbusters are kept out of Chinese cinemas. So unlike in the U.S., where 20th Century Fox's "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" crushed "Transformers" this past weekend, the robots have continued to stomp on in China. "Apes" isn't set to reach Chinese shores until Aug. 29.
The other top performers at the mainland's box office last week were all from Chinese film studios. Enlight Pictures' "The Breakup Guru" took in $27 million, holding on to its second place for a third week; the film has now made $92 million. "Old Boys: The Way of The Dragon" from Le Vision Pictures opened at $17 million in its first week in theaters. Two domestically produced cartoon films took fourth and fifth place in their first week.
Revenue from last week contributed $121 million to the accumulated box office of $2.46 billion in mainland China so far this year.
Tommy Yang and Julie Makinen in the Times' Beijing bureau contributed to this report.