After Impressive Second Week at Box Office, Zhang Yimou's "Flowers of War" Has Shot At China's All-Time Record

The Flowers of War
Zhang Yimou’s “The Flowers of War” (Christian Bale) and Tsui Hark’s “The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate” (Jet Li) dominated the Chinese box office for another week. Both films saw an improved second outing during Christmas week, which is one of the better movie-going periods in China.

“The Flowers of War” grossed a staggering $32.3M last week, a 35% improvement over the first week’s $24.1M haul. Its total now stands at $56.4M after 11 days. Yimou’s latest is getting poor reviews from western critics: a 25% on the Tomatometer with 11 reviews. If reviews continue to be this bad, then it’ll become the accclaimed director’s worst-reviewed film. Although poor reviews haven’t affected it at the box office in China, it could play a role in the United States where reviews matter for foreign and independent films.

“The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate,” the first 3D film released in China starring Jet Li, grossed $27.8M last week. That’s a 24% improvement over the first week. Its total is now at $50M, a new high for both Tsui Hark and Jet Li, its director and star respectively. Budgeted at $35M, “Dragon Gate” breaks the recent trend of expensive martial arts epics that fail to make a profit.

By the end of 2011, both films will have surpassed “Beginning of the Great Revival” ($59M) and “Love Is Not Blind” (~$57M) to become the the first and second highest grossing films of the year.

Now, “War” and “Dragon Gate” are just going for all-time rankings. Here are the top four spots these two films are going after:

  1. “Let the Bullets Fly” ($103M)
  2. “Aftershock” (96M)
  3. “If You Are The One II” ($72M)
  4. “The Founding of a Republic” ($65M)

With new year’s coming up, expect another $20M+ for “War” and “Dragon Gate” next week, which would put their totals in the $70-80M range. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Yimou and Li’s films will take down “The Founding of a Republic” and “If You Are The One II” in the coming weeks.

It looks like Jet Li’s martial arts epic will sit inbetween “Aftershock” and “If You Are The One II” when it’s all said and done. He's losing the box office matchup with Zhang Yimou though, but his film will be way more profitable because of its significantly lower budget.

Yimou’s war film, however, has a chance for the top two spots. Compared to “Bullets,” “War” actually did better in its second week - $32.8 to $31.6M - but it’s total is about $4M behind “Bullet” after 11 days. It could make that up if it continues to do better business in the upcoming weeks.

It’s looking more and more like the $100M “Flowers of War,” the most expensive film ever made in China, will be able to recoup its cost. Let's see what happens next week.

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