Posting more than 48% growth from the same period last year, China’s box office has hit 40B yuan ($6.25B). A record, it was set Thursday night as films like The Martian ($62M) and local title Our Times ($48M) continue their runs. Unsurprisingly, locally produced movies have accounted for more than 59% of the year-to-date take (23.7B yuan/$3.7B), according to state authority SAPPRFT. Comparatively, the 2014 total box office was 29.6B yuan ($4.6B)
Domestic Chinese numbers will only go up in the next month as the country enters a blackout period on imports, leaving a clear path for such expected hits as The Ghouls and Skiptrace, among others. At the same time, there are increased concerns in Hollywood about the recent performance of studio movies which have seen China market become less of a sure thing when it comes to big receipts.
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Hollywood takes 25% of the box office on a quota film in China. With a relatively low P&A spend, some refer to the market as pure-play. But we’ve seen studio movies dip across October and November compared to last year while local titles have over-indexed. Spectre, which enjoyed a strong opening off an aggressive marketing campaign, has slowed and will top out at around $86M. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is at $22M after two weeks and will soon stop flapping its wings.
The jury is out on how high The Martian can go after a $50M debut. Word of mouth has been great, but local pic Fall In Love Like A Star leapfrogged it in daily receipts at the box office yesterday, taking $4M compared to its $2.5M, per Ent Group. Today, Point Break became the last Hollywood movie to open in China this year.
Some of the drop for Hollywood, I’m told, is down to growth in second- and third-tier cities which can be more focused on local fare that often boasts recognizable stars with massive social media followings. Those generally have a longer lead for promotion than the studios who are informed of their release dates with less time to work campaigns. A report from state news agency Xinhua notes that most of the estimated 100M tickets sold every month in the year to date went to young moviegoers who are increasingly from smaller cities. Big-city moviegoing has reportedly dropped from 25% in 2011 to 18% in the first three quarters of 2015.
Still, the performance of summer tentpoles is nothing to sniff at. Among the Top 10 pics of the year are Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Jurassic World, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and of course, Furious 7, which set an all-time Middle Kingdom box office high of $391M in April.
But that record was beaten in early September when Monster Hunt snatched the crown — after staying in theaters for 60 days compared to the regulated 30 for a Hollywood movie. The animated Monkey King: Hero Is Back was also a Top 10 local pic along with Lost In Hong Kong, Goodbye Mr Loser, Jian Bing Man and The Man From Macau II.
With more than 30,000 screens across the world’s 2nd largest box office market — and more going up each day — the numbers will continue to increase. Whether Hollywood can make up more ground is a question mark. The business remains at the mercy of a local industry that controls distribution and is growing savvier in its filmmaking and about its audiences’ tastes.
Still, the meter goes back to zero come January 1 with The Good Dinosaur followed by Star Wars: The Force Awakens on January 9 and Kung Fu Panda 3 on January 29. Disney has mounted a smartly strategic campaign for Star Wars which hasn’t got a real track record in the Middle Kingdom as compared to other markets. But awareness is now at a high and prospects look good. Beyond that, Kung Fu Panda 3 will be a very interesting title to watch. From Oriental DreamWorks, it’s the first true U.S.-China co-production to come down the pike and could prove a lesson for the future.
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