“Cyber Heist,” a crime thriller directed by Hong Kong’s Wong Hing-fan (“I’m Livin’ It”) and scripted by Soi Cheang (aka Cheang Pou Soi), took the top spot at the mainland Chinese box office over the weekend.
It earned a very modest $6.2 million, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway. But that was enough to win on the quietest weekend since January’s Lunar New Year holiday season.
“Cyber Heist” stars Aaron Kwok as a cyber security engineer who develops a state-of-the-art firewall that is capable of fending off online attacks against the global financial system. But he does not realize that in doing so he has stepped into a minefield that is even more dangerous. The picture also stars Lam Ka-tun and Simon Yam.
The film overtook the previous weekend’s winner “A Guilty Conscience,” which earned $5.1 million in its second frame. The courtroom drama, which is now the highest grossing Hong Kong film in its home market, now additionally has a cumulative of $17.8 million from the mainland, after ten days.
The arrival of “Cyber Heist” also means that two Hong Kong-produced pictures have led the mainland box office charts in successive sessions. This appears to continue a trend where Hong Kong’s most stylish and commercial titles continue to perform in mainland China, but the reverse does not hold. Mainland Chinese films struggle to make much impact at the box office in Hong Kong, where a full range of local, Chinese and other imported titles are available to viewers.
Cheang is a prolific and diverse filmmaker, who recently saw his “Mad Fate” premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. He will be the subject of a retrospective at the upcoming Hong Kong International Film Festival, which kicks off at the end of this month.
“Cyber Heist” was produced by Entertaining Power, Media Asia and Sil-Metropole, a company that specializes in Hong Kong-China coproductions. International rights sales are handled by Hong Kong’s Edko Films, which goes into next week’s FilMart representing three of the current top four films playing in China: “Cyber Heist,” “A Guilty Conscience” and Zhang Yimou’s previously chart-topping “Full River Red.”
Over the latest weekend, “Full River Red” placed fourth with a $3.1 million haul in is seventh weekend on release. Its cumulative is now $654 million. “The Wandering Earth 2” claimed third place with a $4.4 million take. Its cumulative total is now $575 million.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” fell from third place to fifth. It earned $3.0 million, an increment that increases it cumulative to $37 million after three weekends on release. While the figure is weak compared with the film’s franchise predecessor, Artisan Gateway notes that it was the top import title in China in February and the sixth highest performer of the month.
The latest weekend’s $29 million nationwide haul edged China’s year-to-date box office total to $2.06 billion, nearly 7% ahead of 2022, and only 9% below the same point in 2019. But to return to pre-pandemic levels (2019 enjoyed a full year theatrical total of $9.1 billion in mainland China) on a consistent level, China’s box office needs to deliver mean weekly grosses of over $170 million. Current performance is still a long way short.
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