Chinese Box Office: "Special ID" $12.6M, "The Wolverine" $20M, "Young Detective Dee" $96.2M

Donnie Yen vs. Ken Lo in "Special ID"

Apparently, Donnie Yen’s no match for “The Wolverine.” The latter debuted last week against the former’s “Special ID.” I’m kinda surprised that China didn’t clear the slate for Yen’s latest actioner to protect local productions, but instead gave it direct competition for action fans from Hugh Jackman’s latest.

Yen didn’t do too bad though. In just four days of release, “Special ID” has already grossed $12.6M, which is along the lines of how his recent films like “Wuxia” (aka “Dragon”) and “Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen” did a couple of years ago. Both of those end up making about $20M-$26M total, so expect “Special ID” to end its run in that range. At least the guy’s consistent.

When “SPL” and “Flashpoint,” Yen’s previous two groundbreaking actioners using Mix Martial Arts, were first released in 2005 and 2007, they were overlooked and did unremarkable business in Hong Kong and China. Fortunately, through film festivals and video, they eventually gained an international cult following. So it’s good to see “Special ID,” the third film in Yen’s MMA trilogy, finally get seen by a wide audience the trilogy rightfully deserves.

(As a side note, check out Sara’s interview with Donnie Yen for Rotten Tomatoes during the U.S. release of “Flashpoint,” when he talked about making mixed martial arts cinematically exciting and a then upcoming film called “Ip Man.”)

Now, on to the film that pinned down “Special ID.” Already the top grossing X-Men film overseas, “The Wolverine” gets to add another $20M to its worldwide box office, pushing its total to $389M. Based on its current trajectory, China will likely nudge the clawed superhero film pass the $400M mark in another week or so. Although the second installment of the Wolverine series, a spin-off of the X-Men franchise, disappointed domestically, it more than makes up for it in foreign markets. And it’s doing it with a reduced budget. Will this lead to another solo outing for Hugh Jackman? Probably.

Another notable highlight at the local box office is Tsui Hark’s “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon.” Its box office has reached $96.2M after four weeks. In an effort to keep the film in theaters so it can eventually break $100M, the producers are giving theaters a 70/30 cut of revenue from ticket sales. We’ll see if that’s enough in the coming weeks.

The mystery/fantasy/action/adventure film has surpassed “The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate” to become Hark’s top performer at the Chinese box office. It’s also the seventh highest-grossing Chinese film of all time. Hark now has two films on the all-time top ten list. Not too shabby for a director who tried, unsuccessfully, to break into Hollywood with not one, but two Jean Claude van Damme duds (“Double Team,” “Knock Off”).

China’s Top 15 Highest-Grossing Chinese Films of All Time
1. Lost in Thailand $201M
2. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons $200M
3. Chinese Zodiac $138M
4. So Young $115M
5. Painted Skin 2: Resurrection $114.5M
6. Let the Bullets Fly $103M
** 7. Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon $96.2M **
8. Aftershock $96M
9. The Flowers of War $95M
10. The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate $87M
11. American Dreams in China $86M
12. Seeking Mr. Right $83M
13. Tiny Times $77M
14. If You Are The One 2 $72M
15. The Founding of a Republic $65M

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