Stellar comedies compete to light up China’s 2024 Spring Festival box office
Film slate ‘promising’ despite lack of blockbusters
Published: Jan 14, 2024 09:50 PM
A girl and an adult stand before movie posters in a cinema during the New Year's Day holidays in Shenyang, Northeast China's Liaoning Province. Photo: VCG

A girl and an adult stand before movie posters in a cinema during the New Year's Day holidays in Shenyang, Northeast China's Liaoning Province. Photo: VCG

February 10 marks not only the first day of the eight-day Spring Festival in 2024, but also the beginning of the Spring Festival holiday period for movies. So far, a total of six productions have announced release dates for the Chinese mainland during the period, most of which are comedies.   

Five films, including Yolo, The Movie Emperor and Article 20, all belong to the comedy genre. Lu Jingci, a film and television industries insider, told the Global Times that those three productions, from notable directors Jia Ling, Ning Hao and Zhang Yimou, are the "most promising ones" of the 2024 Spring Festival season due to the different "stunts" they are using to attract audiences. 

Following the history-making success of her 2021 movie Hi, Mom, Jia returns with Yolo. The movie continues the director's style in producing encouraging films that are full of human touches. Lu told the Global Times that Jia's films are "extremely likable," which "compliments the Spring Festival's warm and friendly ambiance." 

"It does not 'pick' audiences and is family-friendly. The family demographic contributes a lot to the Spring Festival holiday box office," Lu said. 

Prior to film's debut, media noticed the director and actress had lost weight, roughly 50 kilograms according to her, to play her character. The news has earned around 140 million views on Sina Weibo. Experienced marketer Zhu Xun told the Global Times that Jia has created a "tactful campaign" for the film's promotion. 

"She is marketing the upcoming film by being its spokesperson," Zhu noted. Jia plays the heroine in Yolo.

Aside from Yolo, Zhang Yimou's Article 20 is so far the most anticipated film for the Spring Festival holiday. Compared to some of Zhang's artsy commercial productions like The Flowers of War, the new film focuses on ordinary peoples' stories. The film marks Zhang's third attempt to compete during the Spring Festival following his Sniper (2022) and Full River Red (2023). 

"I want to watch it because I want to support Zhang when he uses a down-to-earth approach to tell stories about reality," posted a netizen on Sina Weibo. 

Competing with Yolo and Article 20 are three other comedies, among which The Movie Emperor is greatly anticipated by audiences due to Ning's title as the "Director of Comedy" in the industry, film expert Xiao Sujun told the Global Times. 

The Movie Emperor features super star Andy Lau. Prior to his presence in Ning's 2024 film, the two achieved a big success in 2006 with the film Crazy Stone. It was known as the director's "career highlight." 

Famed comedian Shen Teng will lead another production called Pegasus 2. Boonie Bears: Time Twist, a familiar animated comedian IP catering to child audiences, will also join the Spring Festival box office competition. Viva La Vida, a film adapted from a documentary article, is so far the only non-comedic production set to debut on February 10. 

Xiao told the Global Times that while this Spring Festival lacks major blockbusters such as The Wandering Earth, the whole film slate still looks promising. 

"Those films cater to a wide range of demographics such as family viewers, young people and also children," Xiao said. The total box office of the seven-day Spring Festival 2023 was around 6.7 billion yuan (942 million). Xiao said that the 2024 holiday is "likely" to reach that amount. 

Until January 8, the Chinese mainland box office has earned 1 billion yuan. According to data provided by GF securities, China's film market will continue to grow, and the total box office for the year is estimated to reach a new record high of 63.2 billion yuan.