Packed film slate led by Jackie Chan action drama demonstrates strong recovery
April abundance
Published: Apr 12, 2023 07:49 PM
Promotional material for <em>Ride On</em> Photo: Courtesy of Maoyan

Promotional material for Ride On Photo: Courtesy of Maoyan

April is set to be a packed month for Chinese mainland theaters. Led by the premiere of Ride On starring Jackie Chan, children's film Super Mario Bros. Movie and the highly anticipated Japanese animated film The First Slam Dunk, films including a remastered release of Titanic and classic Japanese animated film Detective Conan: The Phantom of Baker Street also join the party, which greatly enriches Chinese moviegoers' options and indicates that the film market is recovering well.

Though the Qingming Festival holiday was only a single day right in the middle of the week, the box office pleased many filmmakers as it reached 194 million yuan ($28 million), much higher than the 122 million yuan earned during the three-day Qingming Festival in 2022, a time when the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting theaters hard. 

According to Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan, the top three grossing films during the Qingming Festival were Japanese animated fantasy film Suzume, the Chinese adaptation of the classic Japanese family drama Hachiko and Illumination's Super Mario Bros. Movie.

Chinese film critics told the Global Times that the Qingming Festival box office reflects the audience's strong desire to watch films, and the mass release of films shows that film producers are interested in the potential for market growth during this period. In April and May, there are abundant film choices, showing that the market is expected to further recover.

'Ride On' dominates box office

After Ride On hit Chinese theaters on Friday, it quickly dominated the Chinese box office. Though the film has not earned big, it still managed to break the 100 million yuan mark on Wednesday. According to many critics, the comedy action film is more like a "tribute" to the legendary kung fu star Chan's past action movies and a tribute to the former glorious period of Hong Kong action movies.

"The biggest significance of Ride On is that it revives fans' memories of Hong Kong action movies that were once super popular in Southeast Asia and even the US," Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

According to Xiao, the film's script is completely tailor-made for Chan, and several action scenes are also standard Chan-style action comedy, such as using various props to fight a large group of people, combining creative action with ironic comedic visuals. Even lines and clips from past action movies also make an appearance.

"For die-hard fans of Jackie Chan, they are already very familiar with the veteran star's youthful demeanor in his past movies, and they don't want the star to force himself to do high-risk stunts that are difficult to repeat at his age. For young moviegoers, Jackie Chan and his action comedies are outdated," Xiao said, representing many voices of moviegoers who commented that "the era of Jackie Chan is fading away but the spirit of the stuntman shown in the film is worth respecting forever."

The film, a birthday gift marking Chan reaching the age of 69, is also being released by Well Go USA Entertainment in Putonghua (Standard Chinese) with English subtitles in nearly 50 selected theaters in the US, where it grossed $64,759 as of Wednesday, according to Box Office Mojo.

Promotional material for Titanic  Photo: Courtesy of Maoyan

Promotional material for Titanic Photo: Courtesy of Maoyan

A month full of nostalgia

On April 3, a 3D 4K HDR remastered version of James Cameron's Titanic was released in China to mark the 25th anniversary of the original film. 

According to media reports, the remaster release has grossed an ­estimated $61 million globally, but it did not win big in the mainland as it only grossed 39.89 million yuan, ­making it unlikely to surpass Avatar: The Way of Water to once again become the third highest grossing film worldwide. 

Meanwhile, Detective Conan: The Phantom of Baker Street, the sixth Case Closed feature film, has earned great word-of-mouth since its release in China on April 4.

Promotional material for Detective Conan: The Phantom of Baker Street Photo: Courtesy of Maoyan

Promotional material for Detective Conan: The Phantom of Baker Street Photo: Courtesy of Maoyan

Film critics said that it is a relatively common practice around the world to re-screen films in special formats for anniversaries or for 4K remakes. This is also one of the charms of classic movies as they can stand the test of time and attract moviegoers at different ages.

"In order to attract more audiences into the cinema, the re-release of some excellent classic films can further stimulate the film market," Jiang Yong, a film critic based in East China's Jiangsu Province, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Chinese audiences are no stranger to the classic Japanese work Slam Dunk, a shone manga that once inspired numerous boys and girls to get into basketball.

The First Slam Dunk is scheduled to be released in the Chinese mainland on April 20, thrilling many Chinese moviegoers who posted their pre-sale tickets on social media, "See you at the national championship!"

According to Maoyan, the film's pre-sales broke 10 million yuan on Tuesday and topped the ­most-anticipated films list. 

Promotional material for The First Slam Dunk Photo: Courtesy of Maoyan

Promotional material for The First Slam Dunk Photo: Courtesy of Maoyan