China Box Office: ‘Bath Buddy’ Makes Splash With $28 Million Opening, Despite Plagiarism Charge

Chinese action comedy “Bath Buddy” topped the mainland China box office over the weekend with a $28.1 million opening splash. The box office performance came despite the film being in hot water behind the scenes.

The Yi Zhenxing-directed film tells the improbable tale of a rich kid who loses his memory and instead ends up working in a bath-spa. A Korean production company Moonwatcher has issued a complaint that the film is a rip-off of its intellectual property, a web comic that was originally published on the Naver platform.

In a statement issued on Friday, Moonwatcher explained that with Chinese production-distribution-exhibition giant Wanda, it had been developing a screenplay that skewed towards Chinese sensibilities and that Yi was set to direct. It says that Wanda cancelled their contract in 2018, but went ahead with a new adaptation and has ignored all attempts to negotiate a settlement.

Moonwatcher says that it would like to appeal to China’s newly founded courts specialized in IP matters. But its chances of success there are unclear as Korean entertainment products have effectively been banned in China since mid-2016, following a political dispute between the two countries’ governments.

“Bath Buddy” accounted for 45% of the nationwide gross revenues over the Friday-Sunday period, according to data from Artisan Gateway. The consultancy calculates that weekend takings were worth a combined $61.7 million, down from the previous session’s $72.6 million.

There was no new Hollywood title in the market during the latest weekend. The only other new release of substantial size was Japanese animation “Doraemon The Movie 2020: Nobita’s New Dinosaur.” It opened its campaign with a $6 million haul that was good enough for fourth place.

In between those two titles, last week’s top film “The End of Endless Love” saw its weekend total fall by 50% to $11 million as it slipped to second place, and “The Croods: A New Age” earn $6.4 million for third place.

The performance of “Croods 2” in China continues to be roughly double that of its North American activity. The film earned $3 million in the North American market this weekend, for a cumulative of $24.1 million. The cume in China now stands at $46.5 million, or 61% of the film’s $76.3 million global total to date.

Artisan Gateway calculates China’s year to date box office gross at $2.72 billion, down 71% compared with last year’s total at this point. On current trends it seems certain that China will hold on to its current rating as the biggest theatrical market anywhere in the world. And there remains a chance that China’s full year total will pass the symbolic $3 billion milestone.

The next weekend is likely to be propelled by the release of local tentpole film “The Rescue” and “Wonder Woman 1984” while the following weekend will be goosed by another Chinese actioner “Shock Wave 2.” Currently pre-sales for “The Rescue” are running at slightly more than “Wonder Woman” according to ticketing platform Maoyan.

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