China’s “Wolf Warriors 2” was the top film at the worldwide box office over the weekend, driven by a massive $127 million opening in its home territory. That was some $50 million ahead of second placed “Dunkirk,” which earned $73 million globally.
“Warriors 2” is a contemporary war actioner directed by and starring former martial artist Wu Jing (aka Jacky Wu). With assistance from the Russo brothers and a souped up international cast that includes Frank Grillo, it is a sequel to a similar Wu-centered effort in 2015, which grossed $89 million.
The sequel’s opening performance not only beat the lifetime score of the predecessor movie. It also won the box office battle with Chinese propaganda movie “The Founding of an Army,” which showcases historical events of 1927 and grossed $24.8 million, according to data from Ent Group.
Both films were released on Thursday. Though “Army” had the initial advantage, with 68,000 screening sessions that day, compared to 38,000 for “Warriors 2,” it immediately trailed the more modern story. “Warriors 2” opened with $15.1 million, versus $5.62 million for “Army.”
Both films expanded thereafter, with “Warriors 2” enjoying as many as 126,000 sessions on Saturday, and “Army” peaking at 94,000 on Friday. But the momentum was all with “Warriors 2” which earned $31.2 million on Friday, $45.9 million on Saturday, and climbed to $49.2 million on Sunday.
Including its Thursday score, “Warriors 2” achieved $146 million in four days. “Army” finished with $30.5 million in four days.
While “Warriors 2” missed out on any kind of opening day record, the Saturday and Sunday daily scores rank as the sixth and seventh biggest single day performances of all time in China. They also make the film the biggest Chinese-made hit this year, outside of the Chinese New Year period, and barring the Chinese New Year titles the first to exceed $100 million.
“Army” benefits from a pop star cast, spectacular staging, and the services of Hong Kong’s Andrew Lau (“Infernal Affairs”) as director. But it could not hide its status as a new era state-backed propaganda title – its outing was timed to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army — harking back to events that hold little immediate relevance to China’s youth skewing cinema audience.
(“Army” had a glitzy local debut in Hong Kong on Sunday night, with an audience stuffed with old guard Hong Kong leaders. There, Peter Lam chairman of distributor Media Asia, optimistically promised to lift the film’s box office performance.)
All other titles scrambled for the few remaining screens, and their small time performances reflected that. China is currently in its annual summer blackout period, when no major Hollywood movies can be released. That means those films crushed by the duel between “Warriors 2” and “Army” were largely Chinese titles.
Holdover, “Despicable Me” earned $3.33 million in its fourth week for $146 million after 24 days. Chinese animation, “Dear Tutu” took fourth spot with $2.66 million in three days.
Another Chinese animation, “Tofu” limped to $2.22 million on its opening. Holdover, “Brotherhood of Blades,” added $1.97 million after a steep fall. After 12 days, its cumulative is $38 million. No other title reached $1 million over the weekend.
By Patrick Frater