Wong Kar-Wai Finally Scores a Hit at the Box Office with "The Grandmaster": $25.8M Opening Week

Zhang Ziyi in "The Grandmaster"

With its huge opening, “The Grandmaster” is the first box office hit of Wong Kar-Wai’s career. It’s good to see the internationally acclaimed director finally getting his due at the box office.

Wong Kar-Wai’s martial arts epic “The Grandmaster” was released last Tuesday, January 8th, in China and made an impressive $25.8M during its opening week. That’s about the same as its budget. Still, it’ll have to gross at least $57M to break even (without video and foreign revenue) because theaters in China take 55% of ticket sales. At this point, it’s likely to do at least that from just its theatrical run in China.

The opening week figure is also one of the best for its two leads, Tony Leung Chui-Wai and Zhang Ziyi. It has a chance to become the highest grossing film of their careers in China. Leung’s best performer so far is John Woo’s “Red Cliff” ($46.7M) from 2008. Zhang’s best is Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” ($30M) from 2002.

“The Grandmaster” pushed both “Chinese Zodiac” and “Lost in Thailand” down a notch last week. Each of those films experienced a steep 60-plus percent drop-off from the previous week. “Chinese Zodiac” did $12.81M for a total of $127.1M so far. At this point, I don’t think it can pass “Titanic 3D”’s $155.3M. “Lost in Thailand” did $9M for a total of $191.1M. I’m not sure if it can pass “Avatar”’s $203.8M (and become the highest grossing film in China of all time) either. We’ll see in the coming weeks.

“The Grandmaster” did better than I expected. In just one week, it’s already close to beating the $32M punched up at the box office by Donnie Yen’s “Ip Man 2” in its entire theatrical run. At its current pace, it could easily become the top grossing film about Bruce Lee’s martial arts master -- not that there are many, only four so far. Still, had you told me that a film about a martial arts master starring Leung, an actor with no martial arts training prior to making the film, would beat one starring Yen, a martial arts superstar, um … I would just look at you funny.

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