“Saving General Yang” Suffers at Box Office

Despite the marketing buzz for period film, Saving General Yang <忠烈楊家將>, it has only received 56 million RMB at the mainland Chinese box office after its first week in cinemas. This is a far cry from other domestic movies such as Finding Mr. Right <北京遇上西雅圖>, The Chef, the Actor, the Scoundrel <廚子戲子痞子> and Drug War <毒战>. Could this be part of a larger trend marking the the end of period films’ popularity in mainland China?

With a line-up of idols such as Ekin Cheng (鄭伊健), Raymond Lam (林峯), Wu Chun (吳尊), and Vic Chou (周渝民), Saving General Yang could not beat the lower-budget, romantic comedy Finding Mr. Right, which has remained the box office king grossing more than 466 million RMB to-date.

Though the initial word-of-mouth was good, the earnings for Saving General Yang dwindled by the day, resulting in a dismal total gross. Beijing theater manager Wang Yan (王艳) said, “With such a strong cast, we had anticipated a great demand so we have arranged for several showtimes. When we discovered the lukewarm response, we reduced the number of showtimes and moved the shows to the smaller theaters.”

Failed to Attract Young Audience

According to industry insiders, historical films such as Saving General Yang generally attract older viewers. Wang Yan elaborated, “Even though Saving General Yang may attract the older audience, they are not familiar with these Hong Kong actors so they will also not go see it.”

Looking at statistics, young cinema-goers tend to prefer light-hearted comedies such as Finding Mr. Right or even Stephen Chow’s (周星馳) Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons <西遊·降魔篇>. Saving General Yang’s tragic ending also does not appeal to younger audiences’ palate.

Unable to generate satisfactory box office results in its opening week, the number of theater showings for Saving General Yang will only decline and affect its total earnings performance.

Lack of Development and Strong Villains

Though the storyline of Saving General Yang is well known, it is still considered a classic so there will still be a market for it, according to movies market research expert, Jiang Yong (蒋勇). However, director Ronny Yu (于仁泰) did not have a thorough understanding of the Yang family and thus, failed to give an in-depth adaptation of the story.

The movie also lacks dramatic tension because of the absence of a strong villain. As a movie-goer said disappointingly, “The patriotic loyalty of the Yang family versus a fatuous monarch will make a compelling and touching patriotic story. However, this is not the case with Saving General Yang.” What was worse was the inconsequential reason the 7 Yang brothers went to war for. Instead of fighting for their country which would have made them loyal and noble, they went to war to save their father which greatly diminished the honor of the Yang brothers.

Another complaint was the weak relationships between the characters in the show. Without an in-depth look into the relationships between father and sons as well as among the brothers, the emotional arc comes across as lacking in substance. The audience was unable to empathize with the ancient notions of the past. With the lack of development in its storyline and characters, the use of a predominantly idol cast only further deemed the movie as being superficial. 

In reality, period dramas and historical epics have been overdone in recent years. Other period film such as The Last Supper <王的盛宴> and The Guillotines < 血滴子> did not fare well at the Chinese box office either. With the recent disappointing period films released, the reputation of this genre was negatively impacted and make audiences wary from watching them.

Source:  QQ.com

This article is written by Karen for JayneStars.com.

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  1. I thought Raymond Lam has a lot of die-hard fans in Mainland China and his box office will surely be good.

    1. Saving general yang in south-east asia and austrasia did really well in box office. we will see in us and europe.

      Remember crouching tiger and hidden dragon did really well in us and europe but did badly in asia

      finger cross

      1. hope so…will it show in US???? I am in Southern California…did not hear about it???

      2. I don’t think they’re coming to the US. I remember reading a while back that it said it’s going international except US.

  2. I’m shocked I actually thought it would get a high box office.

  3. I think this was mainly aim at International audience they don’t know much about Yang’s family story. I think that’s the reason why It is a flop?.

    1. I wonder about this too, it is the first Chinese movie in a while that had early advertising with English dubs.
      I wonder how well it will do with the big overseas marketing push and if it will make up for lost mainland revenue?

      The bad dubbing on the trailer won’t do it any favors, but most people who prefer English dubs have no taste anyway and will watch it just because it is in their native language.

    1. If it were 200AD, Raymond Lam would not be a soldier. He’d be like a priest or a mathematician slaving away in some underground lab or something. Or an adviser.

      I really just don’t see it.

      1. raymond is only a kelefe in saving general yang

      2. wu zhun & ekin cheng are the two lead.Blame them

      3. Wu Zhun and Ekin Cheng are poor actors, no wonder the movie bombed.

    2. I think Raymond should come to terms that he is Box Office movie poison. His movie hasn’t done so well unless he has like award winning people to back him or he is not the lead.

      1. He’s not the lead in ‘Saving General Yang’ either. So, can’t blame him for the bomb.

    3. They shouldn’t choose the above picture for this article with only Raymond in it. He’s not the main lead and not the one to be blamed upon. Adam, or at least Ekin, Vic and Wu Chun should also be in the pic.

  4. that is sad and shock! i heard all good things about this movie…hope it will go up again!!!

    1. This movie will enormous international awards based on ronny’s artistic contents but may not be a necessary box office hits

      1. i see…hope so…if it is show in US (southern California) i will for sure go watch it more than once…support Raymond 🙂

  5. it becomes an idol movie with dismal box office. The best thing was the action and that was it. too bad the idols are not box office rguarantee. more like poison?

    wu zun did better than expected.

  6. I kind of agree with the whole reason of going to war thing. But I think it also has a lot to do with the Mainland market and the fact that SGY is a period movie.

    I heard that SGY is doing quite well in Hong Kong though.

    1. not really. my cinema friend said yangs fell behind oblivion, detective and finding mr right in hk and the box office is low for a big budget action idol packed movie.

  7. really? is anyone surprised by this? the only surprised was J2TW by Chow..

  8. Maybe people are sick of the same old story and are going for more than just the cast only??

    1. Its time to scrap junky in movies.
      Promotion just don’t encourage tickets or the viewers.
      A good movie don’t necessarily need high profile casts but a fresh script and pay not for A list but pay attention to details, common senses.
      Raymond don’t fancy casting as Micki Mouse in Jouney to the East, Ekin would’nt want to play Donna Duck in Zu Worriers but Adam might just like to appear as the dangerous young teenager.

      1. I would hardly call Raymond Lam, Wu Zun, Ekin Cheng and Vic Chou “A list”. They are idol stars. A-list are people like Donnie Yen, Chow Yun Fat, Tony Leung and Takashi Kaneshiro.

      2. Of course you wouldn’t call Wu Zun and the rest ‘A list’… the original poster wasn’t even referring them as ‘A list’ … it was a generalization that excellent script over ‘A list’ actors.

        Keyword: GENERALIZATION.

  9. This is not a new story. We all know they will have a tragic ending. Who survive and who get killed, we all obviously know. A movie with strong cast doesn’t mean it will guarantee the high box office. I didn’t watch this movie simply because I already know its ending.

    1. Yup, and I think that is the main reason why it isn’t so popular. The story has been adapted so many times that there is nothing new left to talk about. Also, a long story like the Yang Family is more appropriate for a long TV series not a short movie. I have noticed that things based on long novels tend to fail miserably when made into movies because movies are just too short to develop or do anything. Therefore, series are the only way to go.

  10. And the fans are claiming that RL lost TV king because of politics? um.. his past few movies are not doing well in box office either despite the massive promotion that they are doing. Actually it got a lot of back up by TVB which still helped those movies a bit. So much for him leaving tvb..without them i seriously dont think raymond can get anywhere. RL still does not have the mainland market under his belt yet nor do hong kog movie industry.

    1. Ugh TVB TV king got nothing on HK movie scene.

      And why does the flop have to do with raymond specifically? I mean this cast is pretty idol power housed.

      Not even a raymond supporter or fan or whatever, but can we leave the guy alone?

      Lastly, I dont know how well his popularity is in mainland but werent there a couple articles ago about how he is filming two series already? And both gave him a whopping salary?

      Cut the guy some slack already. He just trying to live.

      1. I agree with you, Alice.
        I thought “Saving general yang” would be a big hit as well.

      2. agree with you Alice…Raymond actually get high pay for the series that he is doing in China…he is getting the 2nd highest (lower that Kevin Cheung) Yes…I believe that he did not get TV King is upon TVB’s decision…not because TVB is mean or not nice… TVB is business organization…friends in HK told me because Raymond is still very hot in HK…TVB might want to promote another one so that more famous actor(s) can help TVB to get commission…business show $…ads $ and so on…

  11. Honestly, I’m glad audiences are getting tired of living in the past. The Chinese directors keeping discussing ways to compete with blockbuster Hollywood movies but yet they keep remaking periodic genre films over and over. They should focus more on giving the audience what they want to see which is at the moment light-hearted comedy films. The directors still hold the mindset that if the actors are big enough stars then the movie will sell regardless. Thank goodness things are slowly changing.

    1. Agree, they need to branch out or just wither away. I understand the lack of creativity allows though due to censorship and a difference in their mind set but they’re really starting to run out of genres and materials if they just keep sticking to this routine. How many movies and shows do you need to make about Ip Man? (as an example)

      Need to think differently and more creatively if they ever hope to compete with Hollywood not just internationally but also domestically. I’d rank Japan above them in creativity department and possibly Korea too.

      1. The Korean film industry is definitely head and shoulders ahead of the fledging HK film industry. In terms of creativity, boldness and sophistication, HK movie industry can only dream of producing a movie like Old Boy (which Hollywood is now adapting) or The Host.

    2. Nowadays, HK’s so called “light-hearted comedy films” are boring and not funny at all. It can’t even be compared to the comedy films they did in the past.

      Periodic genre films – HK keeps doing the same story which is Yang family so many times. If HK wants to do wuxia films, they should pick novels that aren’t done yet.

      Personally, I will like to see HK doing fantasy genre, that is, if they have run of genres to do or perhaps they can adapt some japanese anime or games to television series… Maybe games like 9 persons, 9 hours and 9 doors – just a suggestion.

      1. One can tell the dire stead of the HK film industry when 3 out of 5 of their nominees form Best Actress in the recent HKFA are idol singers turned movie actresses (one is still a rookie actress), and the 4 and 5 slot is by a veteran Chinese actress. Are there no quality HK actresses to fill in the gap left by Maggie Cheung? Are Sammie Cheng and Miriam Yeung the best representatives that HK can give us? Pathetic state of affairs.

      2. Typos – ‘state’ not stead, and ‘from’ not form.

  12. Playing multiple war movies back to back, great idea for audiences to see it at home.

  13. “Saving General Yang’s tragic ending also does not appeal to younger audiences’ palate.”

    Eh, why?

    Personally, I wouldn’t go see it since this story has been done so many times already. If it was on TV, it might have given it a try.

  14. I thought previous articles said something like box office smash??

    1. Funn,
      Initial word of mouth was good (among the few sampled), but unfortunately the box office numbers don’t stack up.

  15. People before you start pointing at Raymond Lam, please note that he is NOT THE LEAD ACTOR. Okay, admittedly, i have watched this movie already and it is for raymond 🙂

    My comments, if I haven’t been watching the yang family which cast hu ge, liu shi shi, eddie peng, peter ho etc, I would not have understand the whole frigging story of this movie.

    This movie has no story development at all, so to mention, character development failed. It has a general direction, but that is not I would like to watch it for.

    1. agree…he is not the lead in this movie…he is not the only main character in this movie…so if this movie fail or success, he is not the only factor…but of course…if i am going to watch this drama, it is because of supporting Raymond…i heard that he will have another movie come out this summer…it is a horrible/scary movie?! so bad…i am in US…wait to buy when DVD come out!

    2. So, this movie has a very poorly developed script. Typical of HK movies, reliant on a big name cast to sell movies.

      1. [Continued]…Yet to the mainland Chinese audience, the HK idols aren’t very well-knowned to them at all. Huang Zhao Ming and Chen Kun are superstars in China, not Ekin, Raymond, Adam Cheng etc.

  16. It’s a shame that younger audiences don’t enjoy historical movies. They are spoiled for so much rich history I guess.

    I have also felt that making this story into movies is kind of trying to cram so much into a short time. You don’t have time for character development, every Yang family movie is like that. It really needs a full series for you to really care a lot about each son.
    Still dying to see it though, maybe the bad box office means it will come to dvd quicker?

  17. Overall, it is not a well-made movie, even though there were some decent scenes. The production values, CGI, etc. were not great. Perhaps they didn’t spend enough time planning for all the detailed aspects of the movie. The 3 Kingdoms TV series from Mainland directed by Gao Xixi seemed to have more carefully choreographed battle scenes than this movie.
    The material is better suited for a TV series than a movie. There are just too many brothers to fit into a movie. For some actors I didn’t already watch in some other past shows/films, I can’t even remember which Yang brothers they are.
    There is no time to get to know about the brothers. Especially when you know the last half of the movie will need to show quite a few of the brothers meeting their demise sequentially. One would have to be creative and plan everything carefully to make the movie engaging, so you won’t feel like the movie is just presenting you with a list of characters to kill off during the last 40 minutes, and you have to sit through that dutifully just to finish watching the movie.

    Unsure why they cast Wu Chun, Ekin Cheng. While ok, they could be a bit more engaging. Mrs Yang’s role isn’t that appealing either, the way it was presented in the movie. I guess the film spent more $ on the cast, but skimped on the production values. At the end, it might not earn as much $ back from the box office.

    1. Because Ekin looks like the part of the respected eldest son. Wu Chun I suppose he is famous and he is young looking. I don’t get the mother though. The ending was classic as in wrong. The mother never even enquired where are the other sons. It was too abrupt. All in all, it should not be called Saving General Yang but rather The Yang’s Suicide Mission : Mission Impossible the Chinese version.

  18. i saw the movie so so only anyway i am not a fan of adam cheng or ekin..average movie with weak story line nothing to shout about but then i am not a fan of war movies with tragic ending

  19. The way they died is not enough heroic way and too short. No team spirit in the movie. Totally disappoint specially general yang suicide because of the dream. As I know, a strong hero won’t think of dying in this way. Plus the younger son was died in a most stupid way… Overall a lot doesn’t make sense.

    1. I agree. Since each of them so want to die for others, if they just work together perhaps they can save themselves. The father killed himself because of guilt. He led his 7 sons to certain death and he foolishly thought by killing himself maybe that villain will let them go. That was one of the weakest scene and I hate how the story was going nicely and suddenly got supernatural tings.

      The youngest son’s death was pointless but not stupid. He was betrayed and quite a dramatic death ala Hero ala Jet Li.

      Seriously, a lot of elements in this movie ain’t original but I was seriously entertained.

  20. Notwithstanding any criticisms towards characters, plot development, some death scenes, some action scenes, casting, story, everything in between, I must say I did enjoy this movie for what it is; popcorn fest. I do love the fields scene (legolas!!) and the last fight scene where 6th son killed that villain with serious grudge issue using all the brothers’ and the father’s weapons. That must surely be a classic scene and poignant as well.

    But the rest… I am still not quite sure why everyone is so eager to sacrifice themselves.

    As for the actors, yes Raymond Lam has a minor role, you can even say he has the minor’s role next minor’s role, as in very small role but I do find him the most useful. He was ok but unlike Ekin, he lacked the iconic hero feel.

    However, and a huge HOWEVER, Adam Cheng trumps them all.

    1. I haven’t watched the film yet, but from my knowledge of the other adaptations, aside from the 6th brother and the 1st brother (only in this movie that the eldest was so focused on), are the other brothers just as minor next to minor role? Cause I am curious how they manage to put such a tragic story into a short movie…must be like watching it on fast forward.

      In the other adaptations, 4th, 5th and 6th has the most screen time. 1st, 2nd and 3rd were pushed back depending on the adaptation. 7th almost always had a side story but yes the story almost always revolve around the 4th or 6th. Well, I mean the remakes generally focus on the 4th or 6th.

      1. All of them touch and go but if all things considered, 1st, 6th and the one with the arrows have more scenes than the others but still inadequate. Just bring in the pop corn and enjoy the costumes, etc.

  21. I don’t think the reason for failure has anything to do with the actors. Even tho the cast consists of many handsome gentleman’s, it still didn’t raise enough for people to watch. Think about it, these men are young, their fans are young. Young people aren’t attracted to Chinese history, especially when the adaption isn’t even 80% following the history.
    Another reason I think the failure of the movie is b/c it wasn’t well written. I understand this story is twisted, which is fine. Everyone modifies with history, but it could of been better written. Why would the father sacrafice himself when his sons are already there to rescue him? And why would the sons sacrafice themselves and each other just to bring home their father’s body? I know the story is meant to tell the story of 7 good sons, but you don’t think it’s ridiculous? If I were the 6th son, I won’t want to risk my brother’s lives to bring home my dad’s body. I know, he probably can’t live the rest of his life bearing the fact that he couldn’t bring home his dad b/c of his promise to his mom, but he could live it causing the lives of his brothers?
    They should of focused the story on the loyalty to the king, then that would show them to be more heroic, versus how the story is written now, which makes me feel they were stupid.
    weren’t great.
    For a big production movie, this movie had poor battle scenes. Best scene was the scene where Vic died. That was the best battle scene, the only one that made him look like a real hero. Everyone else died rather… ordinary. Should of made it more gruesome. I think Ekin died from tiredness, one man fighting hundreds, if not thousands and finally lost the energy. Second brother just went to join his older brother, didn’t even have any intense fighting scene. Raymond and the 4th brother seemed more like a suicide with the enemies instead of battling till the end. And worst of all was the youngest brother. He went to get himself killed. Didn’t even have any intense fighting scenes.

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