11 films set to hit Chinese cinemas during May Day holidays

Two voice actors of Tian Xiwei and Yu Shi in Howl's Moving Castle Photo:IC

Two voice actors of Tian Xiwei and Yu Shi in Howl’s Moving Castle Photo:IC

A total of 11 films are set to hit cinemas during the upcoming May Day holidays from May 1 to 5. The ticket pre-sales during the May Day holidays had surpassed 30 million yuan ($4 million) as of Monday morning, with
Formed Police Unit, China’s first film based on China’s peacekeeping police, topping the highest-grossing pre-sale list, according to Chinese ticketing platform Beacon. Film insiders and analysts predicted that the total box office of the film season will reach 1.3 billion yuan.

Traversing multiple genres, the 11 films cover action, suspense, comedy, animation, and romance. Industry insiders told the Global Times that these films are very competitive. 

Zhang Tong, a senior data analyst at ticketing platform Maoyan, told the Global Times on Monday that the new releases during each have their own unique characteristics and corresponding audiences. 

He added that some films are relatively close in pre-sale earnings, and the final box office performance will still depend on the subsequent promotional reach and post-screening word-of-mouth. 

“Based on current data, the total box office for the five-day holiday is expected to range around 1.3 billion yuan ($179.46 million),” he said.

A scene from the Howl's Moving Castle Photo:IC

A scene from the Howl’s Moving Castle Photo:IC

Highlighted live-action films

Formed Police Unit, starring leading Chinese actors Wang Yibo and Huang Jingyu, is the first commercial film focusing on China’s peacekeeping polices overseas. It tells the story of China’s peacekeeping police officers undertaking a sacred mission, traveling to foreign countries, and carrying out tasks in war-torn areas. 

Media sources reported that, to present the real experiences of Chinese peacekeeping police in the mission area, the production team referenced a large quantity of documentary materials, crafting the scenes, props and environment as close to reality as possible. 

The suspenseful comedy
Nothing Can’t be Undone by a Hotpot is currently ranked the second-highest-grossing film in the pre-sale list. The film combines comedic elements with the rising trend of script-killing suspense in recent years, cleverly integrating excellent traditional Chinese culture such as Sichuan opera and hotpot.

Action film
Twilight of the Warriors: Walled which was shortlisted for the Cannes Film Festival, brings together Hong Kong actors, including Louis Koo and Sammo Hung. 

The plot follows troubled youth Chan Lok-kwun as he accidentally enters the Walled City, discovers the order amid its chaos, and learns important life lessons along the way.

Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times that the schedules for various films are actually more diverse in terms of genres. Meanwhile, the “blockbuster effect” is becoming more evident in the Spring Festival and summer vacation periods. 

But this year’s May Day movie lineup relatively lacks “blockbuster films,” and the highlights are also relatively average, so the expectations might not be as high as in 2023.

Hit animated film

According to Maoyan, the most-anticipated films are Japanese animated films
Howl’s Moving Castle, the classic work from mega animator Hayao Miyazaki and
Spy x Family
Code: White, an animated spy action comedy film released in Japan in 2023.

The Boy and the Heron crowned the highest-grossing list during China’s Qingming Festival period, while this time, his previous work
Howl’s Moving Castle is set to debut in Chinese cinemas, and has also stirred up strong interest among moviegoers.

The hashtag “the role of Howl is the most handsome character among all Miyazaki’s works” is currently trending on Sina Weibo. Related topics on whether
Howl’s Moving Castle will re-show the glorious achievement of
Slam Dunk in Chinese film market have been discussed warmly on Chinese social media.

During 2023’s May Day holidays film period, Japanese classic animated film
Slam Dunk made a nostalgic return among Chinese moviegoers, becoming a phenomena among Japanese films in China.

Before its release, the pre-sales of the film had exceeded 100 million yuan, and in its first week. 

It became the weekly box office champion with a score of 380 million yuan and finally grossed 660 million yuan in the Chinese mainland market.

Chen Jin, a data analyst at Beacon, told the Global Times on Monday that Miyazaki’s classic works boasts an ideal audience base and high recognition, appealing to audiences of all ages. However, whether
Howl’s Moving Castle is able to create a similar phenomenon is hard to predict.

Another Japanese animated film,
Spy x Family
Code: White, which was adapted from hit Japanese manga series
Spy x Family, tells the story of an outstanding spy who transforms into a psychologist, Loid, forming an unexpectedly heartwarming “disguised family” with telepath Anya and killer Yor, each harboring secrets. 

After experiencing a series of hilarious family dramas together, they embark on their first “family trip” to defend world peace.

Among domestic animated films,
Nie Xiaoqian is based on a beautiful and tragic love story adapted from classic Chinese story Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. 

Another film
GG Bond and the
Beanstalk franchise based on an interstellar mission meets the viewing needs of the preschool audience.

Zhang noted that animated films are favored during the May Day period because the market supply caters to multiple age groups. Whether the real-action film
Formed Police Unit or
Howl’s Moving Castle will ultimately triumph is dependent on the taste of most Chinese Gen Zers and even younger audiences.