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China Box Office: Taiwanese Crime Film ‘The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon’ Opens on Top, Ahead of ‘Madame Web’

Taiwanese-produced crime action film “The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon” opened on top of the mainland China box office over the weekend, ahead of a quartet of holdover titles from Lunar New Year. Sony’s ‘Madame Web’ and a rereleased “Dune” also opened, but they failed to penetrate the top five.

“The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon” earned $16.2 million (RMB115 million), according to data from consultancy firm Artisan Gateway. Other than the Lunar New Year titles, that represented the highest opening by any new film in China this year. But it was not entirely a convincing performance. It came in only narrowly ahead of “Article 20,” the Zhang Yimou-directed crime comedy drama that has been in cinemas for four weeks now.

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Directed by Hong Kong’s Wong Ching-po and starring Ethan Juan, the film tells the story of a gangster who discovers, first that he has cancer and only a few months to live, and second that he is the country’s third most wanted outlaw. He decides to eliminate the two higher ranked criminals so that he can die on top. Production is by Lee Lieh and Roger Huang.

While Taiwan limits the number of mainland Chinese films that can play each year in its cinemas, the opposite does not hold true. There are no specific restrictions on Taiwanese movies playing in mainland China as long as titles receive mainland censorship approval. Nevertheless, they remain something of a rarity and a number one ranking is a notable achievement.

“Article 20” scored $16 million (RMB113 million) over the weekend, for a cumulative of $320 million, since release on Feb. 10. That cements its position as the third highest grossing Lunar New Year title.

“Pegasus 2,” still the second ranked Lunar New Year release, earned $14.4 million (RMB102 million) over the latest weekend. Its cumulative stands at a weighty $458 million (RMB3.25 billion).

Chinese animated picture “Boonie Bears: Time Twist,” earned $8.7 million over the weekend, for a cume of $268 million (RMB1.90 billion). Weight loss comedy, “YOLO,” which dominated the Lunar New Year holiday sessions, slipped to fifth place over the latest weekend. It earned $8.0 million for a cumulative of $478 million (RMB3.40 billion).

Estimates from ticketing agency Maoyan show that “Dune” earned some $860,000 (RMB6.2 million) over its first three days of rerelease. New release, “Madame Web” was a damp squib, earning just RMB4.8 million or $670,000. “Oppenheimer,” which got an opportunistic, pre-Oscars release, earned just $170,000 over the weekend.

The decks are likely to be cleared properly from the coming Friday, when “Dune 2” hits Chinese screens. Not only will it be the first Hollywood film of this scale since “Aquaman 2” in mid-December, the film has the additional leg-up of being co-distributed by Legendary East, the Chinese arm of Legendary Entertainment.

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