China Box Office: War Epic ‘Battle of Lake Changjin’ Roars Past $400M

China’s runaway Korean War blockbuster The Battle of Lake Changjin has continued its epic siege on the country’s cinemas, roaring past the $400 million mark Wednesday, less than a week after its release.

To date, the film has earned $405 million (RMB 2.62 billion), the third biggest total in China this year, trailing only the Lunar New Year hits Hi, Mom ($821 million) and Detective Chinatown 3 ($685 million). Forecasts for The Battle of Lake Changjin‘s career earnings continue to be revised upwards, with Maoyan now projecting an astonishing finish of $812 million. The film should easily hit $500 million sometime this coming weekend, if not sooner.

The Battle at Lake Changjin is a rare co-directorial effort, uniting A-list Chinese filmmakers Chen Kaige, Hark Tsui and Dante Lam at the helm. Produced by Bona Film Group and state-backed film companies Shanghai Film Group and Huaxia, the title is believed to be China’s most expensive film ever made, with a production budget of over $200 million.

It stars two of China’s most in-demand actors: Wu Jing of Wolf Warrior 2 fame and twenty-year-old rising star Jackson Yee, the breakout lead of Hong Kong’s Oscar-nominated Better Days (2019) and recent blockbuster A Little Red Flower (2020).

The Battle of Lake Changjin glorifies Chinese sacrifices and heroism during the real-life, 1950 battle of the same name during the Korean War (or “the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea,” as it is known in China). A crucial victory for the Chinese side, the historic battle saw the PLA overcome long odds to successfully blow up the Shuimen Bridge and push U.S. military forces into retreat.

The film is very much in tune with the overtly nationalistic tone that has characterized much of China’s recent blockbuster output. State-backed media have been highlighting the film’s chest-thumping messaging, with the jingoistic Global Times tabloid running a story last Friday arguing for the movie’s “implications for today’s China-U.S. competition” (“Had the feeling that Chinese people are not, and have never been, afraid of the U.S.; Seventy years ago, the U.S. could not win the Korean War, and they can’t win today’s trade war either,” said one of the voices cited in the article).

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