Chinese Box Office: "Chinese Zodiac" Helicopter-Kicks "Lost in Thailand" Off the Top Spot

Jackie Chan in "Chinese Zodiac"

In a surprise last week at the box office in China, Jackie Chan’s “Chinese Zodiac” finally dislodged Zheng Xu’s “Lost in Thailand” from the top spot. The two films grossed $37.3M and $31.8M, respectively, for the week ending on January 6th. I didn’t think this would ever happen because “Lost in Thailand” had beaten “Chinese Zodiac” for two consecutive weeks prior to this.

Don't feel too bad for "Lost in Thailand" though. With a cumulative gross of $182.2M so far, it just passed Michael Bay's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" to become the second highest grossing film of all time in China. Now, it's just a matter of time before it takes down the all-time record holder, James Cameron's "Avatar" ($203.8M). This is incredible, especially for a comedy that only cost about $5M to make.

Meanwhile, "Chinese Zodiac" is about to reach another milestone. With a cumulative gross of $113.6M, it’s about to pass "Painted Skin 2: Resurrection" ($114.5M) to become the second highest grossing Chinese film of all time. The next target for Chan's action comedy is Titanic 3D's $155.3M. It’s possible, but a lot will probably depend on how it fares this week against the opening of Wong Kar-Wai’s highly anticipated martial arts epic “The Grandmasters.”

Other notable films in the top ten are Wong Jing's gangster thriller "The Last Tycoon," which stars Chow Yun-Fat and Sammo Hung, and Andrew Lau's martial arts epic "The Guillotines." Both films also star mainland China's highest-earning actor Huang Xiao-Ming. These two big budget tent-poles were supposed to compete with "Chinese Zodiac" for box office supremacy, but have both underperformed.

"The Last Tycoon" held up surprisingly well though, grossing $8.4M last week for a solid $20M total so far. By the end of it's run, it could reach $30M. Sure, compared to the hundreds of millions that "Lost in Thailand" and "Chinese Zodiac" are hauling in, it doesn't sound like much, but, generally speaking, a $20M grosser in China is considered a hit. “The Last Tycoon” has already outgrossed Chow's previous film "The Assassins," a historical drama released in late September of last year that grossed $15.6M before dropping off the top ten.

"The Guillotines," which is a remake/reboot of the classic martial arts film "Master of the Flying Guillotine" is tanking at the box office. Made for $15M, it grossed $2.8M last week for a meager total of $10.7M so far. Look, if you're gonna remake a kung fu classic, be sure to include at least one guy who can kick ass in your cast. Don't think you can get by with just a bunch of pop idols. (A 69 year-old Jimmy Wang Yu, the star of the original 1976 production, doesn't count.)

Next week, I'm curious to see what milestones "Lost in Thailand" and "Chinese Zodiac" will reach. More importantly, I want to see how the "The Grandmasters" will do. Will it be another awards-winning Wong Kar-Wai film that doesn’t make a dent at the box office, or will he finally break through?

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