China’s movie office has been dramatically resurrected by a touching sci-fi comedy about a Chinese astronaut who thinks he’s the last person on Earth. According to data from Artisan Gateway, Moon Man, which was helmed by Zhang Chiyu of the popular comedy group Mahua FunAge, debuted to $148 million over the course of the weekend, including pre-sales. Before it exits Chinese theatres, local ticketing platform Maoyan predicts that the movie will have made over $640 million (RMB 4.34 billion), making it the sixth-highest-grossing movie in Chinese history.

Moon Man stars Shen Teng (Goodbye Mr. Loser) as a Chinese astronaut on the moon who comes to believe he’s the last human in the universe after seeing an asteroid collide with earth. It has the feel of a more whimsical version of The Martian. In reality, his ideal girl (Ma Li) and the other many survivors on earth are following his every action on a live broadcast.

Both Chinese reviewers and general moviegoers have praised the movie, giving it social scores of 9.3 on Maoyan, 9.5 on Tao Piao Piao, and 7 from Douban’s movie enthusiast users.

Moon Man was the biggest summer start for the huge screen exhibitor in China since before the epidemic, grossing $6.3 million in Imax screens.

Zhang, a prominent member of the Mahua FunAge troupe, made his directorial debut with the 2017 film Never Say Die. The movie brought in $333 million, which was the third-highest sum in China that year. The theatrical company turned TV and film producer Mahua FunAge has also had success with the films Goodbye Mr. Loser (2015; $228 million) and Hello Mr. Billionaire (2018; $367 million).

The triumph of Moon Man was celebrated throughout the Chinese film industry, which had struggled throughout 2022 due to Beijing’s “zero COVID” response to the epidemic, since citywide lockdowns frequently close theatres and depress patron morale. The overall income from movie tickets in China in 2022 is 33 percent lower than it was in 2017.

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