With $116 Million In 3 Days, Stephen Chow's 'Mermaid' Charts Course Toward Sea Of Riches

China’s moviegoers have voted with their fins and made writer-director Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid the movie to see this Chinese New Year season.

With its historically unprecedented $40+ million opening day and 3-day tally of an estimated $116 million, the crowd-pleasing fish-out-of-water comedy has set the stage for a possible run at the all-time China box office record held by last year’s action comedy Monster Hunt.

Image credit: China.org

The Mermaid has tail-slapped all its competitors with whopping per-screen averages of better than $2,000 per day on more than half of China’s 32,000 screens. Good word of mouth has kept seats filled and spurred excellent daily holds, with Wednesday’s third day total of $39 million bettering Tuesday’s $36 million and nearly matching Monday’s haul.

At this rate, The Mermaid may just surpass $250 million in its first week, which would set it up nicely to coast past Monster Hunt’s $391 million record total.

Two other high profile films that also opened on New Year’s Day, Man From Macau 3 and The Monkey King 2, have each collected barely half of Mermaid’s total through Wednesday, with Man From Macau at about $65 million and Monkey King at around $60 million.

And although It’s illegal to kill a panda in China, Mermaid has also squeezed most of the life out of Kung Fu Panda 3. The Dreamworks Animation sequel has seen its run severely curtailed to make way for the newer releases; after a solid $105 million start in its first 10 days it was forced to relinquish nearly 90 percent of its screens for the trio of Monday openers. Panda now has a projected final China box office total of less than $150 million, far below pre-release projections.

Investors in The Mermaid are no doubt breathing easier after having made enormous bets on the picture’s success. Media outlet China.org reports that 5 distributors—China Film Group, Longteng Yidu Pictures, Union Pictures, Hehe Pictures and Enlight Media—have collectively plunked down minimum guarantees totaling RMB 2 billion (about US $304 million) to the film’s producers in exchange for a share of profits. Stephen Chow is rumored to have personally reeled in a staggering RMB 200 million ($30 million) chunk of advance income for his writing, directing and producing services.

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