Is the noir crime film ‘Only the River Flows’ topping the China box office in its opening weekend?

“Only the River Flows,” an atmospheric crime noir directed by Wei Shujun, claimed the number one spot at the mainland China box office over the weekend, despite a relatively quiet period.

The film, which focuses more on creating an immersive atmosphere rather than following a linear plot, generated $12.6 million (RMB90.8 million) in ticket sales during its opening three days. This impressive figure accounted for nearly a third of the total market.

“Only the River Flows” received critical acclaim after premiering at Cannes, with Variety describing it as an “inventive riff on Asian-noir” and comparing it to the works of acclaimed directors Park Chan-wook and Diao Yinan.

Since its Cannes premiere, the film has screened at various international festivals, including New Zealand, BFI London, Vancouver, Adelaide, and most recently, the Pingyao event in China.

Zhang Yimou’s “Under the Light,” which held the top spot for three weeks, dropped to second place with weekend earnings of $6.9 million, bringing its cumulative total to $176 million after four weeks.

Chen Kaige’s war drama “The Volunteers: To the War” secured third place at the box office, earning $5.3 million. The film has now surpassed a significant milestone, with a total gross of $103 million.

“Moscow Mission” from CMC Pictures earned $4.6 million over the weekend, reaching a cumulative total of $84.7 million. Huayi’s “The Ex-Files 4: Marriage Plan” claimed the fifth spot with earnings of $3.8 million, taking its overall gross to $131 million.

The second to fifth place films were all released at the end of September to coincide with the National Day “Golden Week” holidays. Although their figures were slightly disappointing, the lack of major new releases in October contributed to the overall slowing trend in box office performance.

According to Artisan Gateway, the total box office revenue for the latest weekend in China was $39.1 million. The year-to-date box office in China currently stands at $6.78 billion, representing a remarkable 76% improvement compared to 2022, but still 12% lower than the levels achieved in 2019.

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