Beijing Love Story (北京愛情故事) Sets New Chinese Box Office Records

On almost a third of the 18,000+ movie screens in China, Beijing Love Story (based on a popular 40 episode TV series from 2012) grossed RMB 97.6 million (US $16.1 million) from 2.44 million admissions on Friday February 14th, 2014. That's a new one day record for a non-3D film.

A multigenerational romantic anthology - reminiscent of Love Actually in the way 5 separate stories interweave - Beijing Love Story was released with a big push for Valentine's Day from the (producer, distributor and exhibitor) Wanda Group

You'll recall that the Wanda Group has over 6,000 screens in China and that they acquired AMC Theaters, and their 4,900 screens in the US, back in 2012 for about US $2.6 billion. In addition to theaters, Wanda also has real estate holdings, including the site of Beijing Love Story's premiere on February 10th, the Sofitel Wanda Beijing Hotel.

Conventional wisdom says the biggest box office numbers come when demand is satisfied all at once. But that didn't happen here. Originally Beijing Love Story was set to open wide in China on Friday Feb. 14th, 2014 - Valentine's Day, which also coincided with the Lantern Festival (the end to the Chinese New Year's Holiday). But Wanda Group decided to open a day earlier (Thursday afternoon Feb. 13th) in about half of the film's full complement of Chinese theaters.

Apparently the early start on Thursday didn't hurt the Friday numbers.

Did Wanda figure on priming the pump for the holiday weekend by opening in half the theaters on Thursday?

Would the film have earned even more on Friday if held back until the official holiday?

I honestly don't know.

Maybe, the successful release of Beijing Love Story will cause exhibitors (at least those, with a major chain of theaters they control) to rethink release schedules....

The huge Friday numbers for Beijing Love Story in China put it in very rarefied company.

In the West, box office dominance suggests certain genres and release patterns. But in China, a modestly budgeted romantic film has just proven capable of performing at record levels.

A romantic anthology based on a TV show just set records for a Friday - even after a fairly wide Thursday opening!

It should be apparent from the last 18 months that Chinese big films (大 片, dapian) may not come with the same features (e.g., genre, release pattern, etc.) that we've come to expect of blockbusters in the West. Which begs the question: Will successes in China remain distinctly Chinese, or will Chinese ideas about genre and release patterns of big films begin to influence Hollywood? For example, would US film exhibitors consider taking underperforming films out of circulation on a Thursday to make way for a big picture? Even if the potential 大 片 wasn't a sequel in a proven theatrical franchise?

Finally, while it's true that the film business is becoming increasingly global, Beijing Love Story demonstrates (yet again) that we still have a way to go before non-3D titles regularly open big around the globe. In this case, The Hollywood Reporter noted that Beijing Love Story opened in the US and in China on the same weekend (what film marketers call "day-and-date"). What The Hollywood Reporter didn't stress is that in China the film was available on around 6,000 screens and in the US only 6 screens.

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