Russian Fantasy Film About Dragons Sets Chinese Box Office on Fire
Russian film 'He's a Dragon," which was released in Russia in December 2015, was already an internet hit with viewers of Chinese pirate videos.
"He's a Dragon" was the second most popular film in Chinese cinemas on Friday, making 18.35 million yuan ($2.77 million) in revenue on its first day, Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported.
According to a bulletin of Chinese film distributors, cited by Chinese portal Cbooo.ru, on Friday the film was the most popular of the day's new releases. In a single day in China, the film made more money than its entire run at the box office in Russia and the CIS earlier this year, where it took a total of $1.87 million.
"He's a Dragon" was a hit with Chinese internet users earlier this year, when several pirate versions of the film with Chinese subtitles appeared on the internet. One of them received 3.7 million views in just five days, Vedomosti reported.
In February the Bazelevs studio, which produced the film, told RIA Novosti that the film's popularity came as a surprise to distributers. The dragon is an important symbol in Chinese culture, and is traditionally seen as a good omen that symbolizes success, power and good luck.
"When we presented the film to Chinese distributors, they replied that local people are unlikely to be interested in the picture because of its plot. The dragon is portrayed as a negative character who brings evil, which fundamentally contradicts the national image," said Valeriya Dobrolyubova, head of Bazelevs sales department.
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Nevertheless, the film is on course to become the highest-grossing Russian film released in China. That title is currently held by the 2013 war film Stalingrad, which took a total of $11.8 million at the Chinese box office, and $1.7 million on its first day.
China's highest-grossing film of all time is the Chinese–Hong Kong production The Mermaid, a whacky comedy starring Stephen Chow (of Kung Fu Hustle fame) released in February 2016. The film, which took 3.391 billion yuan ($512 million) at the Chinese box office, tells the story of a group of mermaids fighting against a property tycoon who threatens the future of their habitat. Eventually, the businessman falls in love with one of the mermaids.