China B.O. could jump 30%

55% of total generated by locally made films

BEIJING — Despite rigid censorship and few top-notch theaters, China’s B.O. tally looks set to jump 30% to just over 2 billion yuan ($250 million) this year.

Weng Li, deputy head of the China Film Group’s exhibition and distribution arm, said the main cinema chains were reporting revenues well above last year’s $185 million, which itself was up 60% on the previous year. Around 55% of this year’s total was generated by locally made films.

While traditionally the cinema is not a mainstay of China’s social life, the arrival of multiplexes in shopping malls and foreign investment in chains is fuelling a strong rise in the biz.

Weng was speaking at Thursday’s launch of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

His forecasts match this month’s predictions from Shanghai Film Group CEO Wang Tianyun, who reckoned B.O. in 2006 would hit $370 million.

Weng said he thought the “Harry Potter” B.O. would be more boffo than “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.”

China’s B.O. take for “Sith” ranked 10th in the world, the first time that China has been among the top 10 since it started importing U.S. films in 1994.

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