A lucrative but controversial weekend at the Chinese box office saw “The Meg” score $50 million and take third place, coming in well behind local films “iPartment” and “The Island,” which made more than $70 million each.
Granted 125,000 screenings on its opening day, “iPartment,” a takeoff of a popular sitcom, earned $44.2 million on Friday, ahead of comedy “The Island” with $22.1 million from 86,000 screenings, according to data from Ent Group. “Meg” had 74,000 screenings and came in third with $15.5 million. But controversy dogged the Friday outcome, as distributors of “iPartment” were accused of heavily buying their own film’s tickets to create the appearance of success.
On Saturday, “iPartment’s” screen count increased, while “The Meg’s” went down. But “The Island” came up the winner, earning $27.9 million, ahead of “iPartment” with $18.6 million and “The Meg” with $16.6 million.
Sunday was different again. “The Island” and “The Meg” both gained screens and posted their best days, with $27.6 million and $17.9 million, respectively.
After three days, “The Island” finished with $72.6 million and “iPartment” with $71.6 million. “The Meg,” a U.S.-China co-production, scored $50.1 million (including $7 million from 520 IMAX screens), beating the film’s $44.5 million score in North America. Producers of “The Meg,” which cost $150 million to make, have tried to make the film particularly appealing to Chinese audiences by casting Li Bingbing and Jason Statham, both of whom are extremely popular in China, and incorporating several China-related story elements.
Some online commentators were puzzled and angered by the box-office success of “iPartment,” a movie that took the characters from a popular “Friends”-like sitcom and dropped them into an action-adventure tale. “When audiences discover that ‘iPartment’ is not a romantic comedy but a tomb-raiding movie, they will drop it,” one said.
Indeed, audience ratings and box office were sharply out of line. “iPartment” plumbed rarely seen depths with a 2.8 rating (out of 10) on ticketing website Mtime and 2.7 score (also out of 10) on leading fan site Douban. “The Island” earned 7.6 on Mtime and 7.4 on Douban. “The Meg” garnered scores of 6.5 and 6.1.
“Hello Mr. Billionaire,” the previous chart-topper, added $11.6 million to take fourth place. After 17 days on release, it has grossed $341 million.
In fifth place was Chinese animation “Yugo & Lala 4,” with $2.23 million. After 10 days, it has scored $12.3 million.
No other film took in more than $1 million. But Chinese theaters earned $210 million in three days, for their third-best weekend of the year and the busiest outside of the Chinese New Year holiday period.