Chinese war epic “The Eight Hundred” has grossed $88 million as of Saturday, after two days officially in theaters and a week of previews, according to data from industry tracker Maoyan. It is the strongest performance of a new film yet since China reopened its cinemas on July 20.
Although cinemas are still only allowed to operate at 50% capacity to encourage social distancing, “The Eight Hundred” made $18.5 million (RMB128 million) on opening day Friday. Maoyan currently predicts a total gross of $286 million for the film.
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“The film’s release coincides this year with an upsurge of people’s patriotic enthusiasm during the pandemic period,” a commentator wrote on Tencent News. “‘The Eight Hundred’ is the first new film to appear in cinemas this year, so the box office is exploding!”
Director Guan Hu’s re-telling of the Chinese defense of a warehouse in 1930’s Shanghai against the encroaching Japanese army has had a long, slow route to theaters. The nationalistic title was initially set to hit theaters last summer, but saw its premiere yanked the night before its debut at the Shanghai International Film Festival, due to apparent censorship concerns that it wasn’t nationalistic enough. The version of the film now playing has been cut by 13 minutes from that original version.
Viewers have nonetheless responded mostly positively, given it strong ratings of 9.2 on both the Maoyan and Tao Piaopiao ticketing apps, but a lower 7.8 on the Douban app more popular with more urbane, cultured viewers.
The film is backed by Huayi Brothers, Alibaba Pictures and Tencent Pictures, and is expected to release in the English-language markets of North America, Australia and New Zealand through CMC Pictures on Aug. 28.
“The Eight Hundred” will soon go up against a number of films set to debut Tuesday, Aug. 25, which marks the Qixi Festival, a sort of Chinese version of Valentine’s Day. These include “Little Women,” a hotly anticipated local rom-com “Love You Forever,” and Chinese love story “Wild Grass.” Friday, Sept. 4, will also see the debut of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.”
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