China box office: $100 million in a day on lunar new year breaks record

Cartoon character Mei Mei promotes "Kung Fu Panda 3" on Jan. 20, 2016, in Chengdu, Sichuan Province of China.

Cartoon character Mei Mei promotes “Kung Fu Panda 3" on Jan. 20, 2016, in Chengdu, Sichuan Province of China.

(ChinaFotoPress / ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)

China ushered in the Year of the Monkey on Monday by going to the movies: The country set a new one-day box office record with $100.5 million worth of tickets sold, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said.

The 660-million-renminbi record was powered by high interest in director Stephen Chow’s “The Mermaid,” which opened Monday and accounted for about 40% of all ticket sales, or $40 million. That’s a record opening day for a Chinese film. Several other new releases topped the 100-million-renminbi ($15-million) mark, including “The Monkey King 2,” and the casino caper “From Vegas to Macau 3.”

Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is traditionally a peak moviegoing period, though foreign films are rarely allowed to screen during this period. (DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda 3,” which is classified as a U.S.-China coproduction, is the one notable exception this year.) Chinese government offices, schools and many businesses are closed for a week or longer. This year’s official holiday began Sunday and runs through Saturday.

The previous one-day record in mainland China was July 18, 2015, when the box office reached 425 million yuan, or $66 million at today’s exchange rates.

While Monday marked a new high-water mark for the Chinese box office, it didn’t come close to shattering any North American records. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” alone sold $119 million in tickets on its opening weekend on Dec. 18.


Mainland China is the world’s No. 2 movie market. The total box office haul in China reached 44.1 billion renminbi last year (about $6.68 billion at current exchange rates), a 48.7% rise year-on-year. North America’s box office haul in 2015 was more than $11 billion, according to Rentrak.

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