As reported by Variety, director Raman Hui’s MONSTER HUNT scared up 172 million RMB ($27.7 million USD) on opening day – setting a new record for domestic Chinese films in a week that also saw 3D animated feature THE MONKEY KING: HERO IS BACK open big, and priming this box office weekend to be China’s highest grossing ever.
More noteworthy than the numbers is the impressive integration of CGI creatures with live actors & environments, on both the technical AND story fronts. The digital monsters establish themselves emotionally to a degree not seen before in Chinese film – running the gamut from fearsome to comic to adorable. This feat is even more commendable considering the near-fatal blow dealt to the film from China’s ban on leading actor Ko Kai, following his arrest and conviction for drug use last year. Not only did producer Bill Kong see his budget balloon by nearly 50% in costly reshoots, but the actors (particularly replacement lead Jing Boran) were required to meticulously register their performances to finished CGI character animation, while simultaneously appearing engaging and unconstrained. It’s a credit to the cast & crew that you’d never know what this film went through as you enjoy it in the theaters.
MONSTER HUNT is expected to clear $100 million USD in China over its first four days, and should have international legs. It certainly has heart. 2015 is shaping up to be a watershed year for Chinese feature film.