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China’s biggest Lunar New Year release is another Korean War propaganda movie

By Laura He, CNN Business

The Chinese box office has raked in $314 million so far during the Lunar New Year holiday, largely thanks to a patriotic war epic celebrating China’s victory over the United States during a key battle during the Korean War.

“Water Gate Bridge” is the sequel to the 2021 Chinese blockbuster “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” which glorifies the heroism of Chinese soldiers fighting American troops during the war. Both films were co-directed by top Chinese and Hong Kong filmmakers Chen Kaige, Tsui Hark and Dante Lam.

“Water Gate Bridge” has grossed $137 million in ticket sales since its release Tuesday, the first day of the major holiday period. It’s one of the biggest holiday season releases in the last few years.

That box office haul comprises nearly half of the total revenue from ticket sales for the holiday period. Sales reached $237 million on Tuesday, with another $77 million as of Wednesday morning, according to data from Dengta Professional, a box office tracking app owned by Alibaba.

Analysts expect “Water Gate Bridge” to boost this year’s Lunar New Year box office total to a new record, surpassing last year’s $1.2 billion — itself a number that accounted for more than 16% of China’s entire box office haul in 2021. The holiday period lasts a week.

“This year’s Lunar New Year holiday is concentrated with blockbusters. The sequel to the Battle at Lake Changjin will guarantee its performance,” wrote Xia Qingying, chief analyst for tech, media and telecom at Guangzhou-based Wanlian Securities, in a report last week.

The original “Lake Changjin” film, commissioned by the propaganda office of the ruling Communist Party, was about the the brutal 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War. The Chinese side claims it as the most critical victory of the conflict, known in China as the “War to Resist American Aggression and Aid Korea.” The Communist Party has ruled the People’s Republic of China since 1949.

The sequel film continues the story of the battle.

Beijing has been trying to contain a resurgence of Covid-19 outbreaks across the country, and as a result is urging the public to avoid traveling during Lunar New Year, which is the biggest holiday season of the year. That may be contributing to interest in moviegoing as an alternative to major travel plans.

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