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3:49 AM PDT 4/11/2016 by Patrick Brzeski
‘Zootopia,' meanwhile, climbed past ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron' to become Disney's biggest movie ever in the booming Chinese film market.
Buoyed by Chinese filmgoers' abiding love for Morgan Freeman, Millenium Pictures' London Has Fallen handily won the weekend at China's ever-expanding box office.
The action-thriller, which is a sequel to Antoine Fuqua's 2013 film Olympus Has Fallen, grossed $24.5 million, easily eclipsing its $21.6 million North American debut over a month ago.
Freeman has been a fan favorite in China since Shawshank Redemption came out in 1994. The film was never released theatrically in China, but it was widely seen — and came to be adored — thanks to rampant movie piracy over the ensuing decade. It is still the all-time highest-rated film on China's leading reviews site, Douban, with a sky-high score of 9.6/10.
Whether China's total for London Has Fallen, which also co-stars Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart, can top North America's final gross — $60.7 million — will depend on how well it fares in its second weekend against Disney's Jungle Book, which early buzz suggests will make a strong debut.
Olympus Has Fallen, also starring Freeman, Butler and Eckhart, was brought into China as a buy-out film back in 2013, opening a full nine months after its North American release but still managing to pull in $5.8 from a relatively slight screen share.
Chinese dark comedy Chongqing Hot Pot, starring A-listers Bhai Baihe (Monster Hunt) and Chen Kun (Mojin: The Lost Legend), landed in no. 2 for the second weekend running, earning $11.4 million from Friday to Sunday for a 10-day cumulative gross of $48.2 million, according to Beijing-based box office monitor Ent Group.
Runaway smash hit Zootopia, meanwhile, pushed past Avengers: Age of Ulton on Friday to become Disney's biggest film ever in China. Closing out its fifth weekend in Chinese cinemas, the animation came in third place, adding $6.5 million for a whopping 38-day cume of $232.3 million (1.465 billion Chinese yuan, compared to Age of Ultron‘s 1.464 billion yuan haul last summer — local currency is used for China's box office records, due to exchange rate fluctuations). Zootopia is both the biggest animation ever in China, and the second-largest movie overall for 2016 so far, behind only Stephen Chow's comedy-fantasy The Mermaid, which grossed an historic $523 million following its release in February.
Last weekend's winner, The Bodyguard, directed by and starring Hong Kong's Sammo Hung, slipped to third place with $6.4 million, while Warner Bros.' Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice eroded another 75 percent-plus, grossing just $2.8 million for fourth place. Its China total after 17 days is $94 million, far below most pre-release estimates.
Further down the charts, multi-Oscar winner The Revenant continued to hang on, adding $520,000 for an improbable $57.9 million haul after three weekends.
Spring is shaping up to be a very healthy season for Disney in China. Following the country's enthusiastic reception of Zootopia and Jungle Book, Marvel-Disney's Captain America: Civil War will open in China day-and-date with the U.S. on Friday, May 6, it was confirmed over the weekend.