April 2, 2023


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China Box Office: ‘A Guilty Conscience’ Tops Mainland Cinema

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Hong Kong courtroom drama film “A Guilty Conscience” topped mainland China’s box office in its opening weekend, edging out Chinese and Hollywood tentpole films.

According to data from consultancy service Artisan Gateway, the film grossed $8.5 million (RMB58.4 million) in its opening three days between Friday and Sunday.

“The Wandering Earth 2,” which has been in theaters for more than a month, earned $7.4 million to bring its total to $568 million.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantummania,” which opened at the top a week ago, collected $7.0 million, giving it a 10-day cume of $31.4 million.

Zhang Yimou’s “Full River Red” finished fourth with $5.5 million in its sixth weekend. Its cumulative total since January 22 now stands at $648 million.

Bringing in fifth place is another Lunar New Year release, “Boonie Bears: Guardian Code” with $3.9 million over the weekend, good for $207 million.

The weekend box office total was a modest $39.6 million, the smallest since China abruptly abandoned strict COVID controls in mid-December.

Still, the performance of “A Guilty Conscience” in China has several interesting footnotes.

Mainland Chinese-made films currently struggle to connect with Hong Kong audiences — “Wandering Earth 2” and “Full River Red” were both perceived as gimmicky hype titles by Hong Kong audiences and quietly flopped — but the opposite appears to be holding up. Not true Hong Kong’s most commercial films seem to operate north of the border.

“A Guilty Conscience” became Hong Kong’s top-grossing film of all time with a box office gross exceeding HK$100 million ($12.8 million). Many commentators attribute its success to Hong Kong audiences’ interest in an old-fashioned system where truth and justice prevail. This position is supported by the success of another 2022 courtroom thriller, “The Sparring Partner”.

(And yet Hong Kong and mainland China have separate legal systems based on completely different principles.)

Other commentators have seen the film’s screenplay, direction and acting as the key to its success. The film about a lawyer who botches his first big case and returns to fight for a grieving and wrongfully imprisoned client is the directorial debut of Jack Ng Wai-Lun. Ng also wrote the screenplay and previously wrote “Anita,” “Cold War 2” and “Invincible.”

The film counts a furniture-chewing performance from Dayo Wong Chi-wah, who also starred in last year’s “Table for Six,” now the third-highest-grossing Hong Kong film of all time. It also stars Louise Wong, who played the title role in the 2021 hit “Anita,” Fish Liu, Rainsy Yeung, Adam Pak and Michael Wong Man-tak.

Artisan Gateway calculates that the box office in mainland China this year has now surpassed $2 billion and is on pace to grow 7% from the same point in 2022.

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