China Box Office: 'Mermaid' Becomes Top-Grossing Film Ever With $400M

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7:36 PM PST 2/19/2016 by Patrick Brzeski

The fantasy comedy from Beijing Enlight Pictures and China Film Group achieved a milestone on Friday.

Stephen Chow has reclaimed the throne as king of the Chinese box office.

By early evening Friday in China, the Hong Kong hitmaker's latest comedy Mermaid had grossed 2.45 billion yuan ($375.6 million), officially surpassing Monster Hunt to become the highest-grossing film ever in the country. 

Monster Hunt, directed by DreamWorks Animation veteran Raman Hui, grossed $374 million over a period of two months last summer, topping Furious 7's previous mark of $372 million. Mermaid's record run is all the more impressive given that it was achieved in just 12 days. (Local Chinese currency is used to track box-office records, as the exchange rate to U.S. dollars fluctuates considerably).

The producers of Monster Hunt tweeted an illustrated congratulations from the film's official Weibo account, writing: “Congratulations Mermaid! Congratulations Stephen!”

U.S. moviegoers who are curious to see what the phenomenon is all about can check it out in select locations this weekend when Sony Pictures releases the Chinese blockbuster in 33 U.S. theaters.

Blending Chow's signature brand of ribald humor with a love story and an environmentalist message, Mermaid centers on a billionaire playboy (Deng Chao) who buys a dolphin preserve with the intention of illegally developing it. A beautiful mermaid (played by newcomer Jelly Lin) plots to protect the aquatic paradise by seducing and assassinating the tycoon — but her plans go awry after she falls in love with him. The film was produced by Beijing Enlight Pictures and China Film Group.

Mermaid opened on China's Lunar New Year's Day holiday, facing fierce competition from rival blockbusters The Monkey King 2 and The Man From Macau 3, starring Chow Yun Fat. Both of those films have been huge successes in their own right: Monkey King 2 has grossed $147.6 million, while The Man From Macau 3 has earned $145.9 million (Hollywood imports are blocked from release during the Chinese New Year period, one of the busiest moviegoing weeks of the year.)

Mermaid‘s gross has an undisputed claim to the domestic box-office record. Monster Hunt‘s record was slightly tainted last fall by revelations that distributor Edko Films had purchased and given away some 40 million free tickets to boost returns. Chinese regulators also left the film in cinemas for an unheard-of 59 days until it finally topped Furious 7.

There is no contesting Mermaid‘s dominance. The film is expected to swim past the $400 million mark before the end of the weekend.  

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