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'Batman' conquers 'Great Wall'

By JAKE COYLE Associated Press

NEW YORK -- "The Great Wall" was a hit in China. In North America, it was a dud.

The most expensive film ever made in China and with a budget of $150 million, "The Great Wall" was intended to prove that the world's no. 2 movie marketplace could produce Hollywood-sized blockbusters of its own. Though it ran up $171 million in ticket sales in China, "The Great Wall" pulled in $18.1 million in its North American debut over Presidents Day weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.

That was good enough for third place, falling behind last weekend's top two films, "The Lego Batman" and "Fifty Shades Darker." The Warner Bros. animated release easily led the box office again with $34.2 million in its second week, sliding only 35 percent. Universal's "Fifty Shades Darker" sold $21 million in tickets in its second week.

Slammed by critics, "The Great Wall" didn't measure up to its initial ambitions. It was produced by Legendary Entertainment, which has since been acquired by Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group.

The film, directed by Zhang Yimou, originated with an idea by Legendary chief executive Thomas Tull, who exited the company last month. But "The Great Wall" isn't a bomb. It has made $244.6 million overseas and performed over the weekend in North America slightly better than some pundits expected.

"This is absolutely a strategy that's worldwide," said Nick Carpou, distribution chief for Universal. "Worldwide, we are one of many markets."

More East-West productions like "The Great Wall" are sure to follow. Studios already regularly partner with Chinese film companies on everything from "Transformers: Age of Extinction" to "Warcraft," a flop in the U.S. and Canada with $47.4 million, but a $220.8 million hit in China.

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Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers also are included.

1. "The Batman Lego Movie," $34.2 million ($21.5 million international).

2. "Fifty Shades Darker," $21 million ($43.7 million international).

3. "The Great Wall," $18.1 million ($19 million international).

4. "John Wick: Chapter 2," $16.5 million ($15.6 million international).

5. "Fist Fight," $12 million.

6. "Hidden Figures," $7.1 million ($7.3 million international).

7. "Split," $7 million ($8.9 million international).

8. "A Dog's Purpose," $5.6 million.

9. "La La Land," $4.5 million ($31.7 million international).

10. "A Cure for Wellness," $4.2 million ($4.5 million international).

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