Home-grown Chinese comedy knocks the blockbusters off their perch

There's a been a major surprise at the Chinese box office this week - and for once it's not the huge numbers being returned by a big-budgeted blockbuster that has raised all the eyebrows.

The reaction to the release of director Kevin Chu's comedy Just Call Me Nobody has left everyone staggered as it pulled in 60.9 million yuan (7 million euros) over the three days to December 5, leaving the hotly anticipated historical drama Sacrifice languishing in second place on 49.6 million yuan (5.6 million euros).

Admittedly, Chen Kaige's epic opened one day after Just Call Me Nobody, but the figures are impressive regardless for a film that stars a bunch of rural comedians.

According to the website Film Business Asia ( http://www.filmbiz.asia), however, it the very nature of Chu's comedy that has made it such a success - it has pulled the majority of its money from cinemas in northern China, where the film's two stars run a wildy successful comedy troupe.

Zhao Benshan and Xiao Shengyang - last seen in 2009 in Zhang Yimou's A Simple Noodle Story, which itself was a remake of the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple - have a dedicated following in northern China and their latest film was financed by Zhao. He stars as a bandit who is trained in the martial arts - and finds himself up against a similarly talented cobbler (played by Xiao).

Ironically, Chu's last effort, 2009's The Treasure Hunter, went head-to-head with A Simple Noodle Story and came off second best to the tune of 60 million yuan (6.8 million euros), compared to Zhang's film's 260.6 million yuan (29.5 million euros).

The domination of the two local films mean that the latest Harry Potter and Resident Evil films dropped down to third and fourth in the Chinese box office charts.

In Japan, meanwhile, the science-fiction epic Space Battleship Yamato ended the first week of its release with US$11.2 million (8.4 million euros) to knock the boy wizard down a peg, while in South Korea the locally produced heart-tugger Pretty Romance ruled the roost with US$4.1 million (three million euros) in takings.

And in Hong Kong, Bruce Lee, My Brother was top of the charts for the second week in a row after pulling in US$99,799 (75,226 euros).

Trailers for the top films:

Just Call Me Nobody: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZBa3YVVvGg

Space Battleship Yamato: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbupyeGlBPA

Pretty Romance: http://movie.mtime.com/130494/trailer/28322.html

Bruce Lee, My Brother: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esbB0GEDcbI