The highly-anticipated “Green Book,” which has swept the top film festivals in the West, unsurprisingly conquered Chinese audiences after its debut on Friday.
It grossed 25 million yuan (3.7 million U.S. dollars) in the Chinese box office on the first day, ranking third following competitive Hollywood contenders “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” and “Alita: Battle Angel.”
The road-trip drama reveals the dark era of segregation in U.S. history but is also tinged with comedy.
Its name “Green Book” refers to a real book of the same name written by African-American postal employee Victor Hugo Green in 1962, which guides black people to hostels and restaurants that welcome them. In the second year the book was published, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the world-renowned “I have a dream” speech, pushing the civil rights movement to a climax.
Adapted from a real story, the film depicts a growing friendship between African-American classical pianist Don Shirley, starred by Mahershala Ali, and his Italian-American driver and bodyguard Tony Vallelonga, played by Viggo Mortensen, during their trip into the racially discriminatory Deep South in the U.S.
The topical story won a standing ovation at its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, and bagged numerous awards afterwards, including Producers Guild of America’s top honor Best Theatrical Motion Picture, the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and most recently, three Oscars for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Ali.
With it winning big at the Academy Awards ceremony across the Pacific, the film, which was scheduled to officially hit the Chinese mainland four days later in March 1, saw a soaring pre-sales, from 956,300 yuan on February 25 to 1.83 million yuan on February 26, and further tripled to 5.56 million yuan the day before its debut, according to data from Alibaba’s Lighthouse, a top movie ticketing app in China.
With the Chinese co-producer Alibaba Pictures, the movie unit of the Chinese e-commerce giant, the film attracted Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma to a Beijing cinema on February 25.
Claiming he had watched the film three times already, two times fewer than that of Hollywood’s best-known director Steven Spielberg, Ma said that the world is “sometimes cruel and is bothered with troubles and violence, and yet what we could learn from the film is that humanity still makes us feel warm.”
Chinese audiences echoed his words on the Internet, giving a high score of 8.9 points out of 10 on Douban, China’s leading film review website.
“This is the best drama I have watched this year,” said a Douban user Yinge, who praised the screenplay and actors’ performance.
“It touches a same topic that discussed in films such as ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ and ‘The Intouchables’, but exchanges roles of the protagonists,” said Yinge, “And ‘Green Book’ signals a stronger joy by setting the plot in a specific time and region.”
Another netizen, named Taotaotaodianying, said, “We tend to believe such story, because we hope people can be kind, mutually understood and equal to others. It is a beautiful wish.”