China surpasses U.S.’s box office for the first time

After showing great results in 2014 with 34% box office growth (versus a 5% decline in the U.S.’s box office in the same period) China is starting 2015 with even bigger numbers. In February, the country’s box office surpassed the U.S.’s for the first time with a whopping $650 million, making the giant the biggest box office market in the world. The growth trend, that has been under Hollywood’s radar for long, is largely reinforced by these news.

A few interesting facts about the Chinese film market:

  • The Chinese State regards foreign films as propaganda and controls the amount of films that are exhibited with yearly quotas;
  • Only 34 foreign films per year can use the lucrative revenue-sharing model and 14 of those must be 3D or IMAX films;
  • Chinese cinema admissions grew by 236% since 2009;
  • Ticket prices grew 268% since 2009 and keep increasing;
  • In 2012, China overtook Japan to become the world’s second biggest film market, behind only the U.S.;
  • Chinese cinema screens have increased by 886% since 2004;

The censorship system has long been a major challenge for north-american Studios to break into the Chinese market. Not only is the number of allowed pictures per year very limited but the rules as to what sort of content is permitted are very unclear and restricting. China seems to be slowly trying to balance this policy with its efforts to grow their film industry though and has announced that they will start looking into clarifying the existing laws and possibly add new legislation regulating the movie and TV industry.

The censorship and quota rules are in place to culturally protect the socialist ideology in the country and are a big remainder that China is still a communist nation despite its capitalist endeavors. Rules or not, China’s should set a firm hold on the first place sooner than later, especially given the hinted relaxation of the censorship rules in the future and ever-growing screens numbers.

What do you think about the Chinese market protection? Could a system like this strengthen national film industries in other countries or is the price in freedom of access too high?


4 thoughts on “China surpasses U.S.’s box office for the first time

  1. Giada Palma says:

    It’s a very interesting article, i didn’t know about that. National governments are trying to go around this rule by making special treaties for co-productions, as recently did the UK for example, but it’s very challenging trying to deal with an authoritarian state without stated rules.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jason says:

    I have just read an article about this, and I am not entirely surprised – given the economy rise and sheer number of people in China.

    I also read that video on demand (VOD) is a great cause for the decline in US Box Office. As a huge supporter of the film industry, I have to admit, it’s much easier to just sit back and pick a movie from your TV after work on Friday night then making your way to a theater. Obviously to watch movies in a theater is still a much better experience, but nothing bits relaxing at home with a good movie after a long week.

    I wonder if there is a way they could combine the two experiences to stimulate the market?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Natalia H.V. Justino says:

      I believe there will always be an audience for watching movies at the Theater but not all movies are worth shelling out the ticket price – which are more and more expensive as time goes by. In the future, we’ll probably see less films rolling out theatrically and higher ticket prices. On the other hand, films that go straight to home video should increase in quantity and have smaller budgets.


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