After enduring the negative impact of COVID-19, China's cinemas welcomed crowds of moviegoers during the Spring Festival holiday.
This is the first Spring Festival holiday after the adjustment of the country's response to the virus earlier this month.
"The audiences are all back!" said Dong Wenxin, a cinema manager in the eastern Chinese city of Jinan who was thrilled to see the return of crowds to her theater. "They are really back."
The week-long holiday ends on Friday. It is usually a lucrative movie-going period in China.
China's holiday box office sold a total of 117 million tickets as of 11 a.m. Friday, generating a whopping revenue of 6.16 billion yuan ($909 million), according to box office tracker Maoyan.
The earnings overtook that of the same holiday last year, making this year's Spring Festival holiday the second highest-grossing to date.
Six domestic titles were released on the first day of Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year, which fell on January 22 this year.
Topping the holiday box office chart was the twist-filled "Full River Red," Zhang Yimou's first foray into the "suspense plus comedy" genre. The ending of the movie moved many to tears with thousands of soldiers reciting prose by patriotic Song Dynasty (960-1279) general Yue Fei in concert. The historical drama raked in 2.34 billion yuan, accounting for about 38 percent of the box office total.
It was immediately followed by Guo Fan's "The Wandering Earth II," a prequel to the 2019 sci-fi blockbuster "The Wandering Earth," which pulled in 1.98 billion yuan. In an interview, Guo described the filming of "space elevators" – which amazed many moviegoers who were fans of Liu Cixin's original novel the movie was based on – as a "nightmare."
Third place on the chart went to the animated film "Boonie Bears: Guardian Code," the newest installment in one of the longest-running movie franchises in China. It grossed 680 million yuan.
The other films are Cheng Er's spy-actioner "Hidden Blade" which stars Tony Leung Chiu-wai; "Deep Sea," an animated fantasy from Tian Xiaopeng, the helmsman of "Monkey King: Hero is Back"; "Five Hundred Miles," a comedy starring Zhang Xiaofei, a comedienne best known for her part in the 2021 dark horse "Hi, Mom."