Over the last decade, a power shift has taken quietly taken place in the world of the global box office. No longer does the US domestic market hold the largest sway over the numbers. It has shifted towards China, despite dramatically lower ticket process. China is now the box-office champion.
The most expensive movie China has ever made (at a seemingly cheap $200 million) is dominating the local box office to such a degree that even with practically zero overseas income it has become the biggest movie of the year globally and the biggest earner of all time in China.
The Battle at Lake Changjin reached $892 million, in the process surpassing previous Chinese box-office record-holder Wolf Warrior II from 2017.
The movie itself is co-directed by Dante Lam, Chen Kaige and Tsui Harkand tells the story of a famous battle from the Korean War. According to the blurb it tells:
“…story of Chinese soldiers defeating American troops despite great odds…”
This is the story of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean war, using the Chinese name rather than the Korean.
The battle took place a month after the People’s Republic of China entered the conflict and sent the People’s Volunteer Army into northeastern Korea.
It started on 27th November 1950 as the Chinese force surprised the US X Corps in the Chosin Reservoir area. The 17-day battle in freezing conditions was brutal, and despite the Chinese blurb above featured 30,000 United Nations Command troops (later nicknamed “The Chosin Few”) against 120,000 Chinese troops.
The UN forces escaped the encirclement and made a fighting retreat to the port of Hungnam. This was the start of the complete withdrawal of UN troops from North Korea which led to the establishment of the current stalemate and border situation we have today.
A tub-thumping, patriotically prideful movie about the Chinese “beating” the Americans being number one at the world box office comes at a time when China continues to maintain an army significantly larger than the US. The Chinese navy already has considerably more, and more modern, hulls than the USN, and their air force is projected to overtake the US in size within the next five years.
This is also against the backdrop of aggressive noises are being made towards Taiwan.
Let’s hope this is not a page out of the Soviet playbook. They were known to show historical military epics to whip up national pride before episodes of military adventurism.
Second place is also taken by another Chinese movie, Hi, Mom. with $822 million. The current Western champion is Bond entry No Time to Die in third globally with $735 million.