Patriotism rules China’s 2019 National Holiday box office

Society & Culture

The Chinese National Day holiday is usually a battle royal of big-budget blockbusters of various genres, whose releases are carefully timed to take advantage of what’s dubbed “Golden Week” starting on October 1. But this year, instead of movies with different themes competing against one another, the holiday box office was dominated by movies with a common theme: patriotism.

Per Beacon 灯塔 (in Chinese), Alibaba’s data-driven movie-marketing platform, three nationalistic flicks — My People, My Country (我和我的祖国 wǒhéwǒdezǔguó); The Captain (中国机长 zhōngguójīzhǎng); and The Climbers (攀登者 pāndēngzhě) — have completely swept the nation, raking in nearly 2 billion yuan ($280 million) in ticket sales after their strong openings on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. By creating a collective cinematic sensation, this trio made October 1 the second-highest-grossing day at the Chinese box office this year, right after the Spring Festival back in February.


Sixth Tone reports that the three movies were killing it at the box office even before the holiday officially kicked off. On September 30, they were responsible for around 98.6 percent of the pre-holiday ticket sales, thanks in large part to their 98.7 percent occupancy of total screenings.

My People, My Country is currently the top-scoring of the three — it generated more than 900 million yuan ($125 million) within two days. Its awe-inspiring performance at the box office was predictable, given that it was directed by a roster of prominent filmmakers, including Chén Kǎigē陈凯歌 and Níng Hào 宁浩, and features an ensemble cast that includes Huáng Bó 黄渤, Mǎ Yīlì马伊琍, and Wú Jīng 吴京.

Coming in second place is The Captain, which is based on the real-life events of a Sichuan Airlines flight making an emergency landing after the plane’s cockpit windshield failed at 33,000 feet. Directed by Hong Kong–based director Andrew Lau Wai-Keung 刘伟强, the disaster drama has amassed around 700 million yuan ($97 million) so far.

The Climbers, a mountain-climbing adventure that details the 1975 Chinese ascent of Everest and features A-list stars like Zhāng Zǐyí 章子怡 and Wú Jīng 吴京, nabbed third place, earning a little over 400 million yuan ($55 million).

The enormous commercial success of the three nationalistic flicks came as a relief for the Chinese movie industry after an unusually sluggish summer defined by a slew of cancellations of film premieres. Their box-office reign and robust performance serves as an indication that Chinese moviegoers have fully embraced the era of patriotic movies, which started with the then-recording-breaking domestic action film Wolf Warriors 2 (战狼2 zhàn láng) in 2017.

Will Wolf Warriors 2 open a new era of Chinese patriotic films?