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Disney's 'Magic Gourd' made US$1 million in first week in China

"The Secret of the Magic Gourd," the first non-Hollywood movie made by the Walt Disney Co. have made more than US$1 million (EUR740,000) at Chinese box offices in its first week. But it is far behind two of this year's biggest American releases, the company said Monday.

Disney's first major venture into localized Chinese content, made more than US$1 million (EUR740,000), or 7.6 million Chinese yuan in the week since its debut on June 29, the company said in a statement.

By comparison, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," earned 80 million yuan (US$10.5 million; EUR7.7 million) in China in its first week since its June 12 release, while "Spider-Man 3" brought in 70 million yuan (US$9.2 million; EUR6.7 million), according to China's state-run Xinhua News Agency.

But in terms of total receipts in 2007, Sony Pictures' "Spider-Man 3" is still the overall winner at Chinese box offices, with takings of more than 100 million yuan (US$13.2 million; EUR9.7 million) since its May 2 debut.

"Pirates," another Disney movie, scored with viewers despite scenes involving Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-fat, who played a bald, scarred pirate, being cut by censors because they were deemed insulting.

Still, Disney said it was pleased with the performance of "Magic Gourd," pointing out that the movie, taken together with "Pirates," "gave Disney a nice position at the Chinese box office."

The budget for "Magic Gourd," made at Hong Kong's Centro Digital Pictures, wasn't immediately available, but it most likely cost significantly less than the US$258 million (EUR189.8 million) spent on "Spider-Man 3." "Pirates" cost US$300 million (EUR220.7 million), according to the box office tracking Web site Box Office Mojo.

The Chinese cinema market is much smaller than its U.S. counterpart. While an American hit can make hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars, a box office take in the tens of millions would be considered a success in China.

"Magic Gourd" is the first-ever Disney-branded movie made outside Hollywood. Disney's famed animators were not involved.

It's a significant venture into local-flavored programming for a company that has until now mainly banked on its mainstay characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

Disney says it plans to launch a story book and merchandise linked to "Magic Gourd," as well as rolling out other Chinese Disney characters to complement its more traditional ones.

"Magic Gourd," based on a famous Chinese children's story, is about a boy who's troubled by his magical vegetable, which steals from others to please him.

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