How Chinese film ‘Sister’ defeats ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ to become No.1 at the Qingming Festival box office in China
Published: Apr 05, 2021 06:41 PM
Promotional material of Sister Photo: Sina Weibo

Promotional material of Sister Photo: Sina Weibo

As theaters in North America are hailing Hollywood monster mash Godzilla vs. Kong for setting the best pandemic box office record over the Easter weekend, Chinese feature film Sister, which tackles sibling relationships, quickly defeated Warner Bros' tentpole during China's Qingming Festival holiday.

Chinese film experts say that Chinese audiences are getting bored with Hollywood's special effects extravaganzas and are more willing to see Chinese stories told with cutting-edge film technology on the big screen.

At Monday noon, the total box office for the three-day Qingming Festival holiday surpassed 700 million yuan ($107 million), setting a new record for the holiday period. Sister and Godzilla vs. Kong account for more than 80 percent of this box office, according to Chinese ticketing platform Beacon. 

"Hollywood films like Godzilla vs. Kong can barely attract a strong interest among Chinese audiences as it only captures their eyes by providing a visual feast without reaching a certain emotional resonance with the moviegoers," Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Monday.

"Emotional resonance is also the reason why Sister toppled Godzilla vs. Kong and it explains why domestic blockbusters have overwhelmed Hollywood films to become champions at the annual box office in China in recent years," he added. 

According to media reports, Sister surpassed Godzilla vs. Kong and moved into the No.1 position only six hours after its release on Friday even though its screen share was only half that of Godzilla vs. Kong.

If Godzilla vs. Kong had been released during the Qingming Festival holiday (from Saturday to Monday) to be day and date with its North America and HBOmax releases, it would not have performed as well due to the inevitable release of pirated copies stemming from a streaming launch, while competition from Sister would further squeeze its living space in theaters, according to Xiao. 

Sister tells the story of 24-year-old An Ran. Following the sudden death of her two parents in a car crash, An faces the tough choice of pursuing her own life or raising her younger brother. 

The film reflects a social issue in China - a traditional preference for sons and deep-rooted patriarchal norms. While An was a little girl - a time when the one-child policy was still in full effect - her parents forced her to pretend to be lame in order to get permission to have a second child - her little brother. After the boy's birth, her parents give almost all of their love to their son while ignoring An. 

"The Sister's success relies on its rare truth and sincerity. It focuses on gender discrimination caused by unequal patriarchal attitudes. This topic has a broad audience base and is in line with current 'feminist' trends," Shi Wenxue, a film critic and teacher at the Beijing Film Academy, told the Global Times on Monday.

Three other Chinese films including the animated Monkey King Reborn, comedy-drama The Eleventh Chapter and romantic drama Tomorrow Will Be Fine were also released during the festival, taking in 58.59 million yuan, 37.80 million yuan and 24.61 million yuan respectively, according to Maoyan on Monday.