The Chinese government released official box office figures for the year late Thursday night, showing a 48.7% hike from 2014 to over 44B yuan ($6.77B). This is the highest percentage increase since 2011, media authority SAPPRFT said. Industry execs believe China will overtake North America as the world’s biggest box office market in 2017. Domestic receipts were a huge $11B this year so the Middle Kingdom still has some catching up to do.
Can China do it? After a year that saw an addition of 22 screens a day, two movies make nearly $400M, and nearly 49% growth versus 30% in previous years, nothing is out of the question. Especially in what some refer to as a “managed economy,” as I outlined earlier this week. This year saw an extended summer blackout period, mid-week release dates and head-to-head competition for Hollywood titles; and reports of ticket fraud by local exhibitors and distributors. This resulted in a 2015 full of frustrations for Hollywood.
The first part of this year will be telling. Coming up in January are the releases of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Kung Fu Panda 3, followed by the Lunar New Year blackout period. That includes the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel, The Man From Macau III and The Monkey King 2.
Chinese market share rose considerably in 2015, to 61.58%. That’s after November closed with a little more than 59% and was bolstered by the December blackout period which has included Mojin – The Lost Legend ($211M), Devil And Angel ($92M) and Mr Six ($72M). Per SAPPRFT, 47 of the 81 features to pass the 100M yuan ($15.4M) mark in the year were homegrown. But those films didn’t just see growth at home, they traveled better in 2015, with $427M in sales outside China for a 48.13% jump on 2014.
Other stats from SAPPRFT include a 51.08% rise in moviegoers (1.26B people). Increasingly, the second-, third- and fourth-tier cities are seeing expansion with more screens and younger audiences flocking to them. That has also helped contribute to the success of local fare.
Still, SAPPRFT’s statement noted that quality of Chinese films has gotten better. “In 2015, more films achieved both outstanding box office performances and critical acclaim.” The animated Monkey King: Hero Is Back was one such winner with 8.4 out of 10 on douban.com, the country’s leading art and entertainment site. It grossed $153M. Notable, however, that The Martian was among the best received and most positively buzzed about titles of 2015, but fell just short of the $100M mark when it got squeezed in late November/early December.
Hollywood’s biggest successes in the PROC this year were Furious 7 ($391M), Avengers: Age Of Ultron ($240M), Jurassic World ($229M), and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation ($137M). The eight studio films that topped $100M tallied roughly $1.44B, growth of 84% versus 2014’s five movies over the century mark.