Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer climbed to $47.2 million in China over the weekend, continuing a better-than-expected run in the world’s second-biggest box office territory. But the blockbuster biopic ceded first place to Chinese crime thriller Dust to Dust, which came on strong with a $22.2 million two-day opening starting Saturday, topping Oppenheimer‘s $9.6 million Friday-to-Sunday total, according to data from box office tracker Artisan Gateway.

Chinese ticketing app Maoyan forecasts Oppenheimer will finish its local run with approximately $57 million, which will make it the fourth-biggest U.S. film release in China of 2023 behind Fast X ($139.5 million), Meg 2: The Trench ($116.5 million, but a China co-production) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 ($86.9 million).

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Despite its long runtime and weighty historical subject matter — which many analysts expected would be a drag in China — Oppenheimer has been boosted by a rave local reception. On the influential fan platform Douban, it has received nearly half a million reviews averaging 8.8, one of the highest scores of any Hollywood film of recent memory. On Maoyan and Alibaba’s Tao Piao Piao ticket services, it averages 9.4 and 9.6, respectively.

Dust to Dust, the weekend’s top title, is the first feature from Jonathan Li, who cut his teeth as an assistant director on several Hong Kong crime classics, including Infernal Affairs 3Dog Bite Dog, and the Overheard series.

A crime thriller starring popular comedian Da Peng and actor Zhang Songwen (lead of the recent hit TV drama The Knockout), the film is based on a real armed robbery from 1995, which involved a group of five thieves ambushing a cash transport vehicle in Guangdong, killing three bank couriers and making away with millions. Three of the culprits were quickly apprehended, but the two masterminds disappeared without a trace — until they suddenly turned up two decades later. Dust to Dust follows a police detective who was always haunted by the case and comes out of retirement to piece it all together. It premiered at the Shanghai International Film Festival in June.

Crime thriller sensation No More Bets came in third for the weekend, adding $7.7 million to its enormous $520 million total. The film, produced by Ning Hao, has been dominant at Chinese multiplexes since its Aug. 8 release.

Fantasy epic Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms scored fourth with $3.4 million, lifting its total to $357.1 million. North American viewers will have a chance to check out the film, dubbed by fans as “China’s answer to Lord of the Rings” and widely praised for its production values, on Sept. 22, thanks to a domestic distribution deal recently inked by Well Go USA.

On Friday, Millennium Films’ action flick Expend4bles and 20th Century’s A Haunting in Venice, the latest Hercule Poirot mystery starring Kenneth Branagh, will open in China. Previous entries in the two franchises have generated mixed results. Murder on the Orient Express earned $35 million in 2017, while Death on the Nile, released while China was still struggling under pandemic lockdowns, brought in $10.8 million.

The first three Expendables films — released in 2010, 2012 and 2014 — earned $31.7 million, $53 million and $72.8 million, respectively. The Chinese audience has evolved a lot since the last entry, so Expend4bles will provide a useful test of the market’s appetite for throwback Hollywood action.

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