A scene from "Life of Pi," which recently was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Jake Netter, 20th Century Fox

'Life of Pi' roaring through theaters in China

  • Article by: AMY KAUFMAN
  • Los Angeles Times
  • December 19, 2012 - 2:41 PM

Hollywood films have for years been doing strong business in China. But rarely does an American film perform better in China than it does stateside.

That's been the case for "Life of Pi," filmmaker Ang Lee's adaptation of the bestselling 2001 novel about a young boy trapped in the middle of the ocean on a raft with wild animals.

Although the $120-million production has collected a decent $69.6 million in North America since its Nov. 21 release, it has sold $84.3 million worth of tickets in China alone. Overall, "Pi" has grossed $129.4 million internationally, according to an estimate from distributor 20th Century Fox.

No other American film has done better in China than in the United States, with the exception of the 3-D version of "Titanic," which made $150 million in the foreign market but only $57.9 million in the U.S. and Canada this year. The movie is now the 10th-highest-grossing film ever in China; the biggest American success story is 2009's "Avatar," which made $294 million there.

So why is "Life of Pi" doing so well in China? For one, Chinese moviegoers are big fans of 3-D technology, and the movie is playing only in that format in the country -- meaning higher ticket prices are boosting the gross. The film's director is also a Taiwan native and is respected in China.

And the movie has received glowing reviews in China. As Chinese film critic Raymond Zhou wrote in his column in China Daily, "Life of Pi" has resonated because of its themes "about cannibalism and unspeakable cruelty."

"(F)or the Chinese," he wrote, "the story is intriguing mainly because it is prone to analyses."

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