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China's box office, for the first time, tops North America

(    09:30, May 11, 2018

For the first time ever, China's quarterly box office performance outshone its North American counterpart, topping the global film market.

According to People's Daily, China boasted over 20.22 billion yuan ($3.18 billion) in box office receipts in the first quarter of this year, with a box office figure of only $2.89 billion in the North American film market.

Among the chart of 10 highest-grossing films during this period, seven domestic films made the list, with only two Hollywood blockbusters — Black Panther and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle — ranking eighth and tenth respectively.

Chinese anti-terrorism action film Operation Red Sea topped the chart, raking in over 3.61 billion yuan at the box office. It has become the second-highest-grossing Chinese film ever, according to Maoyan, a major Chinese film database and ticketing platform.

In addition to Operation Red Sea, Detective Chinatown 2, Monster Hunt 2, The Ex-File: The Return of the Exes and Forever Young all contributed a great deal to this season's Chinese box office power.

It is worth noticing nearly all these Chinese blockbusters hit the big screen around the Spring Festival holiday.

China's box office sales totaled more than 5.72 billion yuan during the weeklong Spring Festival holiday, breaking the previous sales record for the period.

The figure represented a growth of 66.94 percent over the same period last year, according to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of China.

China's box office raked in more than 1.3 billion yuan (about $205 million) on Feb 15, the first day of the Lunar New Year, breaking the single-day sales record for the Chinese market, according to Maoyan.

To be specific, the fantasy film Monster Hunt 2 made 550 million yuan in revenue on its opening day, breaking the record set by Fast & Furious 8, which brought in 478 million yuan on its opening day.

"The Spring Festival season has the highest output ratio at the box office. Movie companies will continue to release their important productions during the season, making the competition even fiercer," said Zhao Xiaonan, co-founder of Filmath, a Chinese site that provides movie data analysis via artificial intelligence. 

This box office boom isn't in one particular type of film, either; Chinese audiences have diverse tastes. The five domestic films mentioned above vary in genre and style.

For instance, Operation Red Sea, the first movie co-produced with the PLA Navy, is loosely based on the evacuation of Chinese citizens and foreign nationals from Yemen during the civil war there in 2015. And Detective Chinatown 2, the Chinese version of Sherlock Holmes, combines comedy with mystery elements.

“I watched the movie Detective Chinatown 2 three times, as I am really into the plot device of using fengshui (also known as geomancy) as clues. Also, it was shot largely in New York City, including many landmark locations like Times Square, Fifth Avenue and the Brooklyn Bridge, making it attractive and intriguing to domestic and international audiences alike,” said Zhang Xiaobin, a college student at Beijing Normal University.

The number of cinema screens in China reached more than 53,000 by the end of 2017, with more theaters to be built this year, according to a report by People's Daily.

As a result, watching first-run movies is no longer an exclusive privilege for people living in first- and second-tier cities. Young residents in mid-population and smaller cities can also enjoy top-quality entertainment.

According to Maoyan, theaters in third and-fourth-tier cities drew the most crowds during Spring Festival.

The mega-hit documentary feature Amazing China also earned more than 400 million yuan ($63.9 million) across the nation.

According to, among all viewers, those aged from 20 to 29 account for 55.5 percent, proof the Chinese film industry boom has a great deal to do with the younger generation. 

Moreover, the China Research Institute of Film Science and Technology has taken a series of measures to create “smart cinemas”, recently releasing an app with the same name.

“The operation of smart cinemas is still in an early stage, so researchers have to tackle lots of problems. In the future, I believe more moviegoers can watch the latest movies on their smart phones,” said Gao Qunyao, CEO of the Smart Cinema app. “When that day comes, people will have more choices to see movies, whether on giant or small screens. And it will surely give a boost to films’ box office performance.”

China was the world's second-largest film market, with box office sales of more than 55.9 billion yuan (about $8.9 billion) in 2017.

Some experts have predicted that as Chinese film industry gains more cultural confidence and takes a people-centered approach to meet people's needs for a better life, the film market is bound to reach the top in the near future.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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