File Photo: A man walks past vending machines for automated tickets at an AMC movie theater in Arcadia, California on Aug. 2, 2017. (Xinhua/AFP)
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- Three highly-anticipated Chinese movies opened at U.S. theaters over the just concluded Chinese New Year this year.
The first, "The Wandering Earth," is China's first high-profile foray into science fiction, and China's poster-child for next-gen, studio-style, tentpole productions.
Adapted from a novella by the author of "The Three Body Problem," Liu Cixin, China's leading sci-fi writer and the winner of the Hugo Award, the film easily escapes from Hollywood's gravity to soar close to the sun with a shining worldwide cume of around 560 million U.S. dollars in just 13 days, making it the second highest grossing Chinese film of all time.
Its story-telling, stellar visual effects (VFX) and killer action sequences have proven to be fan favorites with audiences on both sides of the Pacific. Though the estimated U.S. grosses of 4 million dollars have a long way to go to beat out the 128-million-dollar U.S. cume of "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon," it is still a sizeable box office for a film in Mandarin with no American or European stars shining in its night sky.
According to Shanghai-based CMC Inc., which was responsible for the film's distribution in the North American market, the film broke Chinese film's five-year box office record in the region.
"It was refreshing to see the world saved by a group of people working together," Joy, a moviegoer who did not give her surname, told Xinhua after seeing the film in Alhambra, California with three American friends. "Not just one heroic guy. It was the best of Hollywood and Chinese-style combined."
Compared to some Chinese action movies, this one "delivered much faster, more consistent pacing, and great VFX action sequences without sacrificing the emotional connection between the characters," one of Joy's friends who saw the movie as well said.
Though not China's first attempt at sci-fi, "The Wandering Earth's" team managed to create an epic featuring a script and characters that were cinematically appealing in their own right while still retaining its Chinese essence.
The second film that opened over Chinese New Year in the United States was "Pegasus," directed by the popular Internet blogger, writer and professional racecar driver, Han Han, a fan favorite of Chinese Millennials.
Though billed as a racing comedy, "Pegasus" shows little of either, choosing instead to focus on the more redemptive personal journey of a once-arrogant former racing champion-turned-rice cart vendor, now father, trying to rebound from a five-year racing ban to show he still has what it takes to win his way back to the track.
"I liked that he cared about his son, not just about racing," said one Chinese youngster, Robert, as he left the theater. "But the driving was fun too," said the boy, who only provided his given name.
Though it barely moved the needle in the United States, "Pegasus" was flagged in on its 13th day at a fast-paced 211 million dollars worldwide, according to China's consulting firm EntGroup. It remained in third place of the local box office during China's Lunar New Year holiday period but with no box office information specific to the United States.
While "Pegasus" put its pedal to the metal, the much-hyped "Peppa The Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year," based on a popular British cartoon character, missed expectations with a modest 17 million dollars in the global box office.
But that means nothing to tens of thousands of loyal Piggy fans, mainly three- to six-year olds, who stayed true to their little pink, curly-tailed friend.
"I love her," said a six-year-old who gave her name as Jenny, tightly clutching her Peppa doll while at the movies with her mom over the Lunar New Year. "I want to see the movie again!"