‘Detective Chinatown 3’ Tops Chinese New Year Day With $163 Million, Breaking Record for Best Debut in a Single Market

The world’s largest film market is living up to its title with world-record-setting sales. “Detective Chinatown 3” blasted past strong competition, as predicted, on its Chinese New Year opening day on Friday, notching a record-breaking $163 million (RMB1.05 billion) in sales.

The sum marks the highest ever opening day tally for a film in a single market, beating out former title-holder “Avengers: Endgame,” which grossed $157 million in North America on its first day in 2019.

Its sales on Friday accounted for more than 60% of China’s total national box office, which itself set records this year.

The massive success of director Chen Sicheng’s comedic mystery also propelled Imax to new heights. As of Friday evening local time, the firm “very confidently” projected full-day China earnings of $7.7 million from three films, 18% more than on Chinese New Year’s Day in 2019. Almost all of that revenue — some $7.4 million, or 96% — came from “Detective Chinatown 3,” which was shot on Imax cameras.

The sum marks the highest opening day for a Chinese film in Imax of all time. It also marks the third-highest ever opening day for any Imax film, foreign or local, in China, behind “Avengers: Endgame” ($14 million) and “Avengers: Infinity War” ($8.1 million).

Chinese sources are currently estimating a whopping $976 million (RMB6.3 billion) total run for “Detective Chinatown 3” within the China market alone. That would be almost double the world’s top grossing picture of 2020, “The Eight Hundred,” which earned $461 million. Current local estimates expect the film to reach $400 million over the three-day period of its first weekend, which perfectly coincides with the first three days of the Lunar New Year holiday.

Audiences have been yearning to see the Tokyo-set third installment of the “Detective Chinatown” franchise since last Chinese New Year, when it was a frontrunner, but saw its release extensively delayed due to COVID-19-induced cinema closures at the time.

The Lunar New Year holiday, which this year runs from Feb. 11 to 17, is typically the most lucrative period of the year for China — a mere week in which most cinemas make more than a 10th of their annual revenue. This year, seven major tentpoles debuted on Feb. 12, with two more smaller films set to debut on Valentine’s Day.

The light-hearted time-travel-themed rom-com “Hi, Mom” from writer-director-actor Jia Ling came in second with $35.5 million (RMB229 million), while “A Writer’s Odyssey,” an action-adventure film from Lu Yang (“Brotherhood of Blades”), ranked third with $21.4 million (RMB138 million).

In fourth was the perennial new year children’s favorite, animated “Boonie Bears” franchise film “The Wild Life,” which earned $17.7 (RMB114 million). Director Li Weiran’s fantasy film “The YinYang Master” came in fifth with $12.8 million (RMB82.4 million).

“New Gods: Nezha Reborn,” another cartoon depiction of the popular folk god Nezha, ranked sixth with a $8.97 million (RMB57.9 million) debut, while “Endgame” was the last amongst the new releases, opening to just $6.94 million (RMB44.8 million).

Box office ranking ultimately matched up exactly with each film’s success in pre-sales, according to Maoyan. In that category, “Detective Chinatown 3” had far and away led the pack, with pre-sale ticket sales of $148 million (RMB955 million) as of early Friday evening — $104 million (RMB674 million) of which were for opening day. Its closest competitor, “Hi, Mom,” sold $34 million (RMB219 million), while third place “A Writer’s Odyssey” sold $13.4 million (RMB86.4 million).

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