"Flying Swords of Dragon Gate" Broke Even; "Flowers of War" Became Top Grosser of 2011

Tsui Hark and the company who invested $35M into “The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate” held a celebration earlier this week when it pass $50M at the box office in China. Apparently, the film has broken even.

I had always wondered what amount it would take for a film to break even at the box office in China.

In the U.S., if a movie made back the cost at the box office, then the film will usually make a decent profit through ancillary markets: mostly from foreign box office receipts, home video sales and rentals, video-on-demand, and TV.

Now I know the answer for China: a $35M movie would have to take in $50M at the box office to break even. This means “Dragon Gate” will be a highly profitable movie. It’ll probably make an additional $30-40M before heading to home video and other revenue channels. Jet Li, who’s already by far the highest paid actor in China at $13M per picture, might get another raise.

The Flowers of War

Using the same formula, Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers of War" would have to gross $143M to break even. It's not gonna do that on theatrical. It's on pace to make $100M, but it'll need to make $43M through other channels - foreign box office, home video, and TV. That's gonna be tough. I don’t think “War” has much of an appeal beyond China. With video privacy running rampant there, I’m also not sure how much revenue the film can get from home video.

But on to more positive news for Yimou - on Thursday, his film became the highest grossing Chinese film of 2011 after taking in a total of $66M. “Dragon Gate” will take second place by the end of the week.

Of the two films, Tsui Hark's "Dragon Gate" is more of a legitimate hit because it only cost a third of "War" and it's not far behind at the box office. As of this writing, it's already in the black.

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