"Monster Hunt" (l.) and "Monkey King" helped lead the Chinese box office to a record-breaking weekend.
“Monster Hunt” (l.) and “Monkey King: Hero is Back” helped lead the Chinese box office to a record-breaking weekend.

The top-grossing international feature film was neither Ant-Man nor Minions this weekend; it was a Chinese 3-D live-action/animation hybrid called Monster Hunt. Below is its insane trailer which includes a man-giving-birth-to-a-cartoon scene:

Led by Monster Hunt’s $72 million debut, China enjoyed its highest-grossing single-day gross ever on Saturday. To put that into perspective, Monster Hunt earned more in China alone this weekend than Minions did from over 50 international territories combined.

The $35 million-budgeted Monster Hunt, partly inspired by the Chinese mythological text Classic of Mountains and Seas, marks the solo feature directorial debut of Hong Kong-born Raman Hui, a twenty-year-plus veteran of Pacific Data Images. Hui worked at PDI long before DreamWorks acquired the company, and he remained a key figure at the studio afterward, supervising animation on features like Antz, Shrek, and Madagascar, and co-directing projects like the short Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five and the feature Shrek the Third.

Monster Hunt wasn’t the only animation project leading the Chinese box office charge. The fully-animated CGI movie Monkey King: Hero is Back earned $22.5M at the Chinese box office this weekend. With $70M banked after two frames, Monkey King, directed by Tian Xiao Peng, has now surpassed Boonie Bears: To the Rescue to become China’s highest-grossing local animated film, says Film Business Asia. (Note: The latter site provides different foreign figures than Rentrak, which we use, but either way, it’s a record.) Here is the Monkey King trailer, which includes “creative consultation” from Hoodwinked co-director/writer Cory Edwards:

Monkey King isn’t a mere anomaly at the Chinese box office. In fact, it’s turning out to be the summer of Chinese animation, with a record eighteen Chinese-produced animated features scheduled for release, few (if any) of which will ever be released in the United States.

One thing is clear though: Chinese animation productions are catching up with the output quality of the American majors, and they’re doing it with the help of longtime American industry vets like Hui. While DreamWorks Animation has been rushing to set up operations in China, the impressive launches of Monster Hunt and Monkey King show that the Chinese don’t need American studios to create blockbuster films. At this point, the only edge that American animation studios have is that their parent corporations control global theatrical distribution outside of China.

Speaking of American films, after a near-record opening weekend in the U.S., Illumination’s Minions plunged 57% to an estimated $50.2 million in its sophomore weekend, good for second place behind the $58M launch of Disney’s Ant-Man.

The second-weekend plummet for Minions was steeper than Despicable Me (41.8%) or Despicable Me 2 (47.4%), and suggests that the buzz surrounding the film created a heavily front-loaded audience. In fact, Minions grossed even less in its second outing than Pixar’s Inside Out did ($52.3M) in its comparable weekend.

However, after ten days, Minions has a domestic haul of $216.7M, outpacing Inside Out’s 10-day total of $185.1M. And to see the full picture, we have to look at Minions internationally. This weekend the film also earned $66.2M in territories beyond the U.S., lifting its international total to $409.1M. Combined with with American box office, its global cume is $625.8M, making it the highest-grossing animated feature of 2015 to date, and overall, the fourth-highest-grossing film of the year.

In its 5th weekend, Pete Docter’s Inside Out continued performing strong in the U.S., securing fourth place with $11.7M (estimated). With that, the film reached $306M at the U.S. box office, becoming Pixar’s third-highest grossing U.S. film ever, behind just Toy Story 3 and Finding Nemo. Inside Out added an extra $21.3M internationally, boosting its foreign total to $183.8M, giving it a $490.2M globally.

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