Just over one year on from the break-out success of Ne Zha, another animated Chinese mythological adventure film has smashed records to post the biggest-ever single day box office take for an animated feature in China. Jiang Ziya: Legend of Deification, which comes from the same universe of characters as Ne Zha and is being seen as a sequel of sorts, pulled in 53 million USD on Thursday October 1, the first day of a week-long national holiday in China.
Directed by Teng Cheng and Wei Li, Jiang Ziya is one of a number of blockbuster domestic productions that were supposed to hit Chinese cinemas during the Spring Festival back in January. Covid-19 decimated those plans, but with screens across the country now back open and most theaters operating at 75% of capacity, the October holiday has become a major box office focus.
While nationalistic comedy My People, My Homeland (a follow up to last year’s My People, My Country) sits in second place in the early October holiday box office rankings, the third and fourth films are also titles that saw their releases delayed by the pandemic. Jackie Chan vehicle Vanguard is in third, with Leap in fourth place. Focusing on 40 years of China’s women’s volleyball team, the latter’s success represents something of a box office comeback for its star Gong Li following a disastrous showing from Mulan.
Despite its early success, it’s unclear whether Jiang Ziya can go on to replicate Ne Zha‘s overall box office performance, which saw it become China’s second most successful homegrown blockbuster of all time. One indicator is that the new movie’s reviews are not quite as glowing as those of its predecessor, with popular user review site Douban currently scoring it at 7.1 compared to Ne Zha‘s 8.5.
Nevertheless, the film’s opening day take still represents a significant milestone for China’s animation industry. And with a storyline that pulls from Chinese mythology — it centers on the titular Jiang Ziya’s battle with a fox demon intent on destroying the mortal realm — the movie is also indicative of an increasing confidence among domestic filmmakers in telling Chinese tales.
Jiang Ziya has also been given a limited North America release through Well Go USA. Ne Zha, meanwhile, is available in the US on Netflix.
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