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?