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Chinese B.O. totals $1.14 bil

'Avatar' leads chart in first nine months

China’s box office continues to sparkle, chalking up a boffo $1.14 billion in the first nine months of this year, with James Cameron’s “Avatar” accounting for $207 million of the total, according to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

The year has seen a mixed bag of Hollywood and Chinese fare dominating screens.

After “Avatar,” the second-biggest film of the first three quarters was Feng Xiaogang’s earthquake epic “Aftershock,” China’s foreign-language Oscar nominee, taking just over $100 million. Next was Christopher Nolan’s dream fantasy “Inception,” which took $56 million, followed by Wilson Yip’s “Ip Man 2,” which reeled in $36 million.

The big numbers for Hollywood movies are a sign of how important the Chinese market is becoming for overseas shingles, despite restrictive censorship rules. The Chinese market is expected to be the world’s second biggest within five years.

Sarft VP Zhang Hongsen told an event in Shanghai that domestic films brought in $580 million in the first three quarters, narrowly beating out foreign fare, which earned $560 million.

Tong Gang, director of the China Film Bureau, forecast in July that the B.O. take would reach $1.5 billion for the full year, driven by a sharp increase in the number of screens.

The regional breakdown of B.O. is interesting. The southern province of Guangdong dominates with $189 million of B.O. receipts, followed by Beijing with $129 million, then China’s biggest city, Shanghai, with $112 million.

The biggest cinema chains are Wanda Intl. Cinemas, which notched $157 million in ticket sales, China Film’s Stellar Film Chain with $131 million and Shanghai United Circuit with $122.5 million.

Among single theaters, Beijing’s UME Huaxing Intl. Cinema had the highest B.O. in the country, with receipts of $11.5 million, followed by the Golden Harvest Shenzhen Cinema with $9 million.

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