Chinese film 'The Mermaid' sets China box office record

People attend a promotional event with Hong Kong star Stephen Chow for the film, The Mermaid, in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, China, February 17, 2016. REUTERS/China Daily

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese film “The Mermaid” has broken China’s box office record, overtaking locally-made “Monster Hunt” and Hollywood action movie “Furious 7”, as domestic and international film battle over China’s rapidly growing cinema market.

The comedy by Hong Kong director Stephen Chow pulled in around 2.47 billion yuan ($379 million) by Friday night, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday, citing official data from the film industry watchdog.

The record was previously held by “Monster Hunt”, which took in 2.44 billion yuan in September last year when it knocked Hollywood car chase movie “Furious 7” off the top spot.

Foreign film-makers from the likes of Sony Corp and Walt Disney Co are increasingly turning to China despite challenges of navigating censors and having to compete to be allocated one of the coveted 34 spots allowed for foreign films each year.

Foreign films have traditionally dominated China’s box office, but locally-made films are posing a growing challenge.

While the North American market, still the world’s largest, has seen box office growth slow down, ticket sales in China rose to around 44 billion yuan last year, up nearly 50 percent over 2014, Xinhua said.

“The Mermaid” is an odd-ball romantic comedy about a businessman property developer who falls in love with a mermaid sent to assassinate him.

Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky