Transformers makes a splash on opening night

Updated: 2011-07-24 11:01

By Liu Wei (China Daily)

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Transformers makes a splash on opening night

Transformers fans from Chaohu, Anhui province, wear masks as they wait at a cinema at midnight on July 20 for the premiere of the blockbuster. Provided to China Daily

Transformers: Dark of the Moon opened on the Chinese mainland with a soaring box office, but it may still not break the record set by Avatar, an industry insider says.

Millions have been making a beeline for the theaters since midnight July 20 to see the blockbuster, which was released on the mainland nearly a month after its US premiere.

It is estimated the film pulled in more than 12 million yuan ($1.8 million) at its opening, which is far more than the 3.5 million yuan Avatar raked in on its opening night on Jan 3, 2010.

Avatar is the highest-grossing movie in China, having earned about 1.3 billion yuan.

According to a survey by Web portal Sina.com, 51 percent of the voters believe the box office takings of Transformers 3 will surpass that of Avatar, while 29 percent say it depends on what happens at the box office in the next two weeks.

China has emerged as an important international market for Hollywood. The country was the largest overseas box office contributor for both Avatar and Transformers 2.

But the anonymous insider mentioned above believes the record set by Avatar is not easy to break.

"Avatar was the first time Chinese audiences got to see an amazing 3D film, but 3D is no longer that rare," he says. "Besides, Transformers' target audience is not as diversified as that of Avatar's. Most are teenagers and young adults."

He expects the final box office of Transformers 3 to exceed Kung Fu Panda 2's 600 million yuan to reach 700 million or 800 million yuan.

Most of the 6,000 screens in mainland theaters, including those with IMAX facilities, are showing the film in both 2D and 3D versions.

The price a ticket to an IMAX 3D version at prime time in some theaters in the big cities has hit 160 yuan, as against the usual cost of 50 yuan.

Some Web users have complained on Weibo, Sina.com's microblog service, that buying an IMAX 3D ticket to the film is as difficult as buying a train ticket during Spring Festival, when tens of millions of Chinese head back to their hometowns to welcome the new year.

"Theaters are eager to make up for the average box office takings of the previous month, when quality films were few," a veteran movie distributor says.

Although the film received mixed reviews in the US, it has done little to dampen enthusiasm here.

"You may or may not like it, but it is a must-see film," college student Li Ji says.

"After all, it is the talk of the town."