“Meg 2: The Trench,” the second instalment in the Chinese-financed giant shark franchise, was the top film worldwide over the weekend. But in its China home market “Meg 2” was beaten by strong previews of “No More Bets.”
Nevertheless, the arrival of two popular films at the top of the chart meant that China enjoyed its third highest box office weekend of the year, with a $185 million haul. That score is the strongest weekend of 2023 outside the Chinese New Year holiday season.
It also meant that China had a bigger weekend box office total than North America (estimated at $176 million by Comscore). That is not unprecedented, but it is rare for a non-holiday weekend.
“Meg 2” opened on Friday and earned $53.7 million (RMB381 million) over three days, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway.
“No More Bets” does not open officially until Wednesday, but it enjoyed wide previews from Saturday. Those previews put the film in top spot on both Saturday and Sunday and narrowly ahead of “Meg 2” for the Friday-Sunday weekend period with a total of $55 million (RMB390 million).
“Meg 2” appeared popular with the popcorn crowd, but it rated poorly with film aficionados. Viewer ratings on the movie ticketing platforms Taopiaopiao averaged at 9.4 out of 10 and at 9.1 on Maoyan, both powerful. On the more high-minded Douban, the rating was a lowly 5.8.
Local data services show that “Meg 2” played 149,000 screenings on Friday. And it held strongly with 138,000 sessions on Saturday. But exhibitors chopped it down to 105,000 on Sunday, making room for expansion of “No More Bets.” Still, Maoyan’s forecast for “Meg 2’s” eventual box office total in China is now a meaty RMB1 billion or $140 million.
“No More Bets” is a crime action drama, about a Chinese pair, a computer programmer and a female model, who go overseas and get themselves involved in a fraud scheme. From the trailer, it appears to have a high violence quotient – involving gang beatings and interrogative torture – as well as gambling and get-rich-quick themes. The film is produced by Ning Hao and his Dirty Monkey studio. As a director Ning has a powerful track record with comedy action films including “Crazy Racer,” “Breakup Buddies” and “Crazy Alien.”
“No More Bets” does not appear on Comscore’s calculation of weekend global performances. But its $55 million haul, would appear to make it the fourth highest scoring film worldwide between Friday and Sunday – behind “Meg 2” ($142 million), “Barbie” ($127 million) and “Oppenheimer” ($82 million).
Ranking third in China over the weekend was “Creation of the Gods 1: Kingdom of Storms.” It earned $38.3 million, according to Artisan Gateway for a cumulative of $234 million after three weekends on release.
Imax reports that “Meg 2” earned $4.2 million of its China total on its screens and that “Creation of the Gods I” brought in $1.7 million (for an Imax China total of $25 million).
“One and Only,” the previous weekend’s highest opener, slipped to fourth place. It earned 19.3 million over the weekend for a 10-day cumulative of $101 million.
Chinese animation “Chang An” earned $7.9 million in fifth place. That gives it a cumulative of $232 million since release on July 8.
China’s 2023 cumulative box office now adds up to $5.19 billion. That is some 68% better than the same time in 2022 and only 6% behind that of 2019, according to Artisan Gateway.