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January 30, 2010

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'Confucius' failing to topple 'Avatar'

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 fierce competition from global hit "Avatar."

"Confucius" opened with a record 2,500 copies, but only grossed 38 million yuan (US$5.6 million) in the first three days after its debut on January 22.

The 150-million-yuan production focuses on the great philosopher's experiences between the ages of 51 and 73, with an episode depicting a romance between the philosopher and Nanzi, legendary queen of the ancient state of Wei, who is played by 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 has broken all the records at the Chinese box office since its premiere on January 4. It became the most successful film in the country by raking in 540 million yuan after 15 days.

The 3D epic is still ruling the country at the box office, outperforming "Confucius."

"We had to give 'Avatar' five theaters to meet 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 said he expected "Confucius" to be a challenger for "Avatar" at a news conference in Beijing on January 14, because the two films belonged to different categories. He believed people would see both in the cinema.

But so far moviegoers seem to be preferring the Hollywood fantasy.

Tickets for the Imax version of "Avatar" before February 15 have all been sold out in the 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," a cinema official said.

"Confucius" is not finding favor online either. About 55 percent of 10,520 Internet users described "Confucius" as a bad film on Overall, it scored 4.3 out of 10 against 9.1 for "Avatar."

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 everyone.


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