"Confucius" faces uphill battle against "Avatar" in China

08:35, January 29, 2010      

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The biopic of the life of the ancient Chinese philosopher and educator Confucius (551 BC-479 BC) starring Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-fat is facing a fierce competition from global hit "Avatar."

"Confucius" opened with record 2,500 copies, but only grossed 38 million yuan (5.6 million U.S. dollars) in the first three days after its debut on Jan 22.

The 150-million-yuan production focuses on the great philosopher's life experiences from 51 to 73, with an episode depicting a "romance" of the philosopher with Nanzi, legendary queen of the ancient state of Wei, who is played by famed star Zhou Xun, a winner of Golden Horses Awards.

The film is the only domestic blockbuster recently to challenge the Hollywood science-fiction epic "Avatar" which almost broke all the records at the Chinese box office since its premiere here on Jan.4. It became the most successful film in the country by raking in 540 million yuan after 15 days of running.

And the 3D epic is still ruling the country at the box office, outperforming "Confucius." The Beijing Dadi Century, producer of the biopic, had not released new box office about the film but the cinema managers were keen on the "fight".

"We had to give "Avatar" five theaters to meet the demand at peak hours" said Li Xianping, general manager of Beijing Ziguang Cinema which owned 10 screens, "But for 'Confucius,' two theaters have been enough so far."

Chow told media that he expected "Confucius" to be a challenger of "Avatar" at a news conference in Beijing on Jan. 14, because the two film belonged to different categories. He believed people would made both choices in cinema.

But the real choice that moviegoers are making is biased toward the Hollywood fantasy.

Tickets for IMAX version of "Avatar" before Feb. 15 have all been sold out in Huaxing International Cinema, one of Beijing's three cinemas equipped with IMAX screens.

"All the 459 seats are filled every time "Avatar" is screened, both in 3D and IMAX theaters," an official of the cinema told Xinhua. In contrast, a theater which could accommodate 120 people had rarely been full in the cinema.

A couple told Xinhua in the cinema that they would definitely choose 'Avatar' if they could only make one choice.

The rating is also spreading online. About 55 percent of the 10,520 Internet users described "Confucius" as a bad film, according to user-submitted reviews at douban.com, a popular Chinese website.

But about 6.6 percent of the surveyed users believed the film was excellent. Overall, "Confucius" scored 4.3 out of 10 while "Avatar" got 9.1 in user-submitted reviews at the website on Thursday.

Beaten at the start, "Confucius" is gaining in popularity. in the the same rating at the website two days ago "Confucius" only got 4 points and nearly 60 percent of Internet users said the film was bad.

"The film is not bad as it was rated," a blogger called "Poetic Wings said. "It doesn't fall short of my expectation of Confucius and I've even seen it for twice."

Zhang Yiwu, a professor and a film critic from Peking University, said "Confucius" had lived up to the expectation of the majority, though it had not pleased every one.

Ling Yang, a senior of Renmin University in Beijing, was also in favor of Confucius. She said "Confucius" motivated her to review the Confucian classics she used to recite at high school.

Li said the ticket sales of "Confucius" did not soar but has been stable, and the film is expected to attract wider audiences as students are leaving schools and campuses for vacation.

Source: Xinhua
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