A Chinese Film Beat No Time To Die And Venom 2 At The Box Office

There was much talk last weekend about the box office — and for good reason. "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" set records with its $90 million domestic opening, and "No Time to Die" made nearly $120 million in its international rollout. But, amazingly, those weren't the highest-grossing movies worldwide last weekend. And what's even more surprising is it's not even sort of close. Rather, a Chinese propaganda film titled "The Battle at Lake Changjin" absolutely obliterated the competition, which could mean big things for the future.

The Rather Surprising Numbers

According to Box Office Mojo, director Chen Kaige's "The Battle at Lake Changjin" opened to an absolutely blistering $203.2 million last weekend. Mind you, this movie did not have a big international rollout that the U.S. wasn't privy to — this was just in China. What's more, as of this writing, the movie has already earned $405 million in six days. It is already the fifth highest-grossing movie of the year, just behind "Godzilla vs. Kong" ($467.8 million), a total that it will surely surpass any day now, if it hasn't already. This is, to say the least, surprising to many who follow box office reports from North America, as most of us have likely not even heard of this movie.

It was produced as part of the 100th Anniversary of the Communist Party of China and the country is showing movies this year that are meant to celebrate it. Just in case anyone is curious as to what could so heartily topple the likes of 007 and Tom Hard's bromance with Venom, here's the synopsis for the film:

Set in the Second Phase Offensive of the Korean War, 'The Battle at Lake Changjin' tells an epic historical tale: 71 years ago, the People's Volunteer Army (PVA) entered North Korea for battle. Under extreme freezing conditions, the troops on the Eastern Front pursued with fearless spirit and iron will, as they courageously fought the enemy at Lake Changjin (also known as Chosin Reservoir). The battle was a turning point in the Korean War and demonstrated the courage and resolve of the PVA.

What This Signals for the Future

For many years, China has been the second-largest moviegoing market in the world. However, the pandemic upended just about everything in the movie business. While COVID ravaged China first, the nation's exhibition business has clearly recovered in a downright remarkable way. They ended up as the number one moviegoing market in the world last year and, thanks to other hits such as "Hi, Mom" ($822 million) and "Detective Chinatown 3" ($686 million), the country may well take the top spot again this year.

It's important to emphasize that this does not just affect films produced in China. Hollywood blockbusters rely on ticket sales in the country. It certainly doesn't help matters that censors only allow a certain number of foreign films to play there each year, meaning fewer and fewer American movies are getting their time in China. To that end, "Black Widow" and "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" failed to secure releases in China this year. This likely means Hollywood will have to work harder to cater to Chinese audiences, which will undoubtedly impact blockbuster filmmaking in the near future. As Bob Dylan so eloquently put it, "The times they are a-changin'."