A 3-D Epic About a Magical Monkey Is the Most Popular Movie in the World

How It Works
Feb. 4 2014 1:29 PM

A Chinese Epic About a Magical Monkey Is the Most Popular Movie in the World

themonkeyking

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the most popular film in the world last weekend, taking in $46 million, was The Monkey King, a 3-D epic based on a Chinese legend about a “monkey born from a heavenly stone who acquires supernatural powers.” The story is a prequel to the 16th-century novel Journey to the West, about the introduction of Buddhism to China, which was itself adapted into a highly successful action comedy last year.

The Monkey King’s big weekend comes almost entirely from Chinese audiences. The beginning of the Lunar New Year is generally one of the biggest box office weekends of the year for the Chinese film market, which became the second-largest in the world over the least decade. Where Are We Going, Dad?,a Chinese documentary based on a reality show about celebrity fathers, was the world’s second-most-successful film over the weekend. The U.S. animated feature Frozen was No. 3.

Advertisement

The Chinese film market is increasingly dominated by local productions. In 2012 only three local films cracked the top 10 in China. In 2013 only three Hollywood films were on the list, and domestic pictures accounted for 71 percent of box office revenue. The Chinese government has exercised some cultural protectionism over its film industry, allowing only a certain number of foreign films into the country per year. But interestingly, the increasing share of Chinese movies in the country’s box office comes after a landmark trade deal in 2012 that lifted the number of Hollywood films released in the country from 20 per year to 34. (The extra 14 have to be IMAX or 3-D.)

A number of high-profile Hollywood movies, including Gravity and Pacific Rim, have added China-friendly elements with an eye on pleasing Chinese audiences (and censors). The 3-D requirement leads to some odd choices for the American films China gets to see. 2014’s selections include the flop The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and the straight-to-video animated movie Saving Santa. Maybe it’s not so surprising that Chinese audiences are sticking with homegrown hits.

As for the Monkey King, U.S. audiences will have to wait until September to see what they’ve been missing.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Natasha Lyonne Is Coming to the Live Culture Gabfest. Are You?

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

Tattoo Parlors Have Become a Great Investment

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
Behold
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Honcho Says Celebs Who Keep Nude Photos in the Cloud Are “Stupid”
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM It Wasn’t a Secret A 2013 inspector general report detailed all of the Secret Service’s problems. Nobody cared.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 2 2014 11:16 AM Some McDonald's Monopoly Properties Matter More
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 2 2014 11:07 AM Mapping 1890 Manhattan's Crazy-Quilt of Immigrant Neighborhoods
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 10:36 AM How Bad Will Adam Sandler’s Netflix Movies Be?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM Surge Pricing Is Not Price Gouging
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 2 2014 9:49 AM In Medicine We Trust Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?