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January 21, 2010

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At 540m yuan, 'Avatar' is China box-office king

CHINA has called the box office smash "Avatar" the country's most successful film ever, grossing about 540 million yuan (US$79.7 million) since its premiere on January 4 on the mainland.

Tong Gang, director of the film bureau of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, released the figure at a symposium on the Hollywood blockbuster on Tuesday.

"Avatar" has topped previous title holder "2012," which brought in about US$67 million yuan last year.

A move to take down the 2D version of "Avatar" was a commercial decision, the administration said yesterday, and the 3D version will still be shown into February.

Many Chinese theaters will pull the 2D version of "Avatar" starting Friday to make way for "Confucius," a biopic on the philosopher.

Zhang Hongsen, deputy head of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, denied that the government had imposed the order, saying in yesterday's edition of the Beijing Morning Post that it was a commercial decision.

"The box office returns for the 2D version of 'Avatar' are very low, only making up one-third of the whole revenue. Most people are choosing the 3D and IMAX versions," he said.

"When new movies arrive in theaters for Spring Festival, it's quite natural to pull out 2D 'Avatar,' which complies with market principles."

Zhang did say that perhaps there was a connection with the new "Confucius" movie, starring Hong Kong's Chow Yun-fat and mainland actress Zhou Xun.

"Perhaps it's because that 'Confucius' is just coming out, but 'Confucius' has no 3D version, so there ought not to be any conflict," Zhang said.

The Spring Festival, or the Chinese Lunar New Year, is the nation's biggest holiday and falls on February 14 this year. With a week of vacation or more, many Chinese are expected to flock to the country's theaters.

China boasts about a dozen IMAX screens, another 800 3D screens and 4,500 regular screens.

"Avatar" has been showing on 2,500 screens - one-third at IMAX and 3D screens, and the remaining two-thirds on regular 2D screens.

Tickets for the 2D version cost 30 to 40 yuan, while 3D tickets are pricier at 60-80 yuan. An IMAX ticket, at 130 to 150 yuan, is an expensive treat for moviegoers in China.


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