BEIJING (Reuters) - A film depicting a Chinese hero saving the day in a war-torn African country has become China's highest-grossing film, pulling in more than 4 billion yuan ($600.11 million) at the box office since it was released last month.
"Wolf Warrior 2" is expected to rake in a total of 5.5 billion yuan as it taps into feelings of patriotism and national pride at home. Data for its box office takings are from Chinese online ticketing platform Maoyan.
Analysts say that the film, which stars a former Chinese special forces soldier single-handedly evacuating Chinese citizens besieged by Western mercenaries in Africa, could also inspire China to make more such films, as Beijing sends more of its nationals abroad to undertake construction as part of its "Belt and Road" initiative.
"Chinese audiences love to see films that resonate with their own recognition of national identity and this movie is more advanced in quality, theme and topicality," said Dong Shu, a Shanghai-based independent film critic.
"For sure making similar movies will be a new direction."
China's previous highest grossing film was the comedy "The Mermaid", which earned 3.39 billion yuan in early 2016. Shares in Beijing Jingxi Culture & Tourism Co., a distributor of "Wolf Warrior 2" in China, has soared 40 percent since the movie's launch.
While privately financed, the film has received strong support from state organisations, including the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, the People's Daily newspaper.
"An individual will be better with a powerful country behind his back. There is not only Captain America, but also Chinese heroes who fight abroad," the People's Daily wrote on its official Weibo account.
The popularity of the movie has bucked slowing growth in the Chinese film market, which only grew 3.73 percent last year.
Wu Jian, senior data analyst with Beijing Weiying Technology Co, said he had initially predicted that the movie would make 800 million yuan to 1.5 billion yuan.
"We were quite pessimistic about this year's box office outlook before this movie, expecting even a net decline from last year," he said. "But now we might be talking about a 20 percent rise for this year if Hollywood movies also fare well in the second half."
($1 = 6.6655 yuan)
Reporting by Pei Li and Brenda Goh