Zhang Yimou’s “Curse” Tops Mainland Box Office

China and Hollywood ended in a tie at Chinese cinemas in 2006 each counting five films in the top 10,with Zhang Yimou’s "Curse of the Golden Flower" and Feng Xiaogang’s "The Banquet" leading the way.

"Curse of the Golden Flower" has so far earned 250 million yuan(31.25 million U.S dollars) while "The Banquet" pulled in 130 yuan(16.25 million U.S. dollars) during its run.

Total box office revenue last year was 2.62 billion yuan (about327.5 million U.S. dollars), an increase of 620-million-yuan over last year, said Tong Gang, director of the Film Bureau of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) on Friday.

SARFT has refused to reveal box office revenues for the top imported films, but statistics from the China Film Group Corporation, the only Chinese company entitled to import films, show that "The Da Vinci Code" with 105 million yuan and "King Kong" with 102 million yuan were third and fourth on the top 10 list.

"Fearless" starring Jet Li, "Rob-B-Hood" starring Jackie Chan and "Battle of Wits" starring Andy Lau, all of which were co-produced by Chinese mainland and Hong Kong companies, ranked fifth, sixth and ninth with 101 million yuan, 97 million yuan and 67 million yuan of revenue respectively.

Three other Hollywood blockbusters, "Mission Impossible III," "Poseidon" and "Superman Returns," were the seventh, eighth and tenth with revenues of 82 million yuan, 68.93 million yuan and 62.54 million yuan respectively.

"Domestic films accounted for 55.03 percent of the box office in 2006, a slight growth over 2005," Tong said, adding the surprise performance of a number of medium and small budget films made a significant contribution.

"The Knot," a story across the Taiwan Straits lovers, "Tokyo Trial," a portrayal of the trial of Japanese WWII war criminals, and "Crazy Stone," a black comedy about the theft of a piece of jade, were the low budget high achievers. "Crazy Stone" was the big winner in the category as the 3-million-yuan film brought in 23 million in ticket sales. The other two films barely made their money back.

In China, many small-budget films lose money as they have no access to theatres. More than two-thirds of the 330 total domestic films made in 2006 did not play in cinemas, according to Zhang Pimin, deputy director of the Film Bureau.

While the domestic box office topped 2.6 billion yuan, China’s motion picture industry had total revenues of 5.73 billion yuan in2006, an increase of 930-million-yuan over 2005, said Tong, adding that television revenue from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan was 1.91 billion while 1.2 billion yuan came from broadcasters on the mainland.

China’s 330 feature films produced last year were 70 more than in 2005. Along with animated films, documentaries and science and educational films, Chinese film makers also made 112 digital movies and dramatic series for television, according to Tong.

More than 270 production companies made motion pictures in 2006, 75 percent of which were privately owned, he said.

Eighty-two new cinemas were built adding 366 screens in 2006, bringing the total figures to 1325 theatres which have 3034 screens, he said.

There were 73 Chinese-made films playing in cinemas or on television in 44 other countries and regions in 2006, Tong said, adding that 27 China-made films won 44 prizes at 22 international film festivals last year, compared with 32 prizes won by 18 films at 24 international film festivals in 2005.

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