"Science fiction" has become a keyword in China's film market during the week-long Spring Festival holiday, with two sci-fi films hitting big screens and receiving favorable reviews from the critics and audience.
"The Wandering Earth" and "Crazy Alien," both adapted from stories by renowned Chinese sci-fi writer Liu Cixin, were among the films that premiered on Feb. 5, the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year.
"The Wandering Earth" led the box office during the holiday, raking in more than 2.3 billion yuan (343 million U.S. dollars) by Monday, according to Maoyan, China's professional box office tracker.
The domestically-produced blockbuster has established itself as the most popular sci-fi film ever screened on the Chinese mainland, with box office earnings exceeding "Transformers 4" that was screened in 2014, observers say.
Another sci-fi, "Crazy Alien," has earned more than 1.5 billion yuan by Monday, according to Maoyan. Inspired by another sci-fi novel by Liu, it tells a story about two businessmen's encounter with aliens in a coastal city of China.
1ST CHINA-MADE SCI-FI BLOCKBUSTER
"The Wandering Earth" tells a story of an epic project to move Earth and its 3.5 billion residents out of the solar system, as mankind is threatened by a dying and swelling sun.
According to the producer, about 80 percent of the film's visual and special effects were produced by Chinese companies -- a fact that also helps enhance Chinese moviegoers' confidence in home-made sci-fi films.
In terms of structures and special effects, the film has by and large met international standards, critics say.
It was considered by moviegoers as the most satisfactory among the films released during the Spring Festival holiday, gaining the highest score in a recent survey conducted by the China Film Archive.
Hailed as the first China-made sci-fi blockbuster, the film, according to critic Li Xingwen, should be praised for the breakthroughs and innovations it made as it marks the first time sci-fi as a film genre is "taking shape" in China.
"The Wandering Earth" is significant in terms of helping nurture aesthetic sensitivity to quality sci-fi films, Li said, adding that the film, however, still has room to improve as it "lacks in expressions of humanity."
The popularity of the film has boosted people's interest in science fiction as discussions on both the film, the original novel and China's sci-fi film industry have heated up recently.
Liu said it is significant for himself as well as for the circle of science fiction to witness the home-made sci-fi being welcomed by the audience.
The comedies and cartoons screened during the holiday have been outshone by the sci-fi films.
"The New King of Comedy," a sequel to the 1999 comedy hit "King of Comedy", directed by Hong Kong actor-turned-director Stephen Chow, pulled in a total box office earning of 544 million yuan during the last week, according to Maoyan.
"Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year," a cartoon film that is based on the British cartoon character Peppa Pig and co-produced by e-commerce giant Alibaba and British media company Entertainment One, only earned 114 million yuan within seven days since its debut.
Yin Hong, vice chairman of the China Literature and Art Critics Association, said as recent years saw the rapid development of China's comedy films, the audience now has higher demands and expectations, calling for both resonating themes and original jokes.
According to the State Film Administration, China's box office earnings reached 5.84 billion yuan during the Spring Festival holiday this year.
The single-day box office earnings on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year reached 1.44 billion yuan, breaking the record of 1.27 billion yuan last year, it said.