'Kung Fu Panda 2' comes in second

Hollywood tentpoles dominated a boffo 2011 for the Chinese film biz, preliminary data has shown, with “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” taking a storming $170 million in the world’s fastest-growing major movie market.

Ever since “Avatar” made $210 million in China, Hollywood has kept a beady eye on the performance of tentpoles here, even though Beijing’s quota system allows only 20 foreign films in the country per year on a revenue-sharing basis — and the 15% cut of the revenue is lower than elsewhere.

China’s enthusiastic cinemagoers did not disappoint.

While data from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television is due out at this month, early indicators are that Hollywood movies did extremely well.

Data from Entgroup, which compiles China’s B.O. data, showed that the hit of the year was “Transformers 3,” followed by “Kung Fu Panda 2″ with $95 million.

The top earning local movie was Zhang Yimou’s Christian Bale starrer “The Flowers of War,” which opened Dec. 16 and took in $78 million by the end of the year. It’s cume is now $83 million.

The total gross for 2011 looks on track to sweep past $2 billion for the first time. It had reached $1.9 billion by the end of November and December is traditionally a busy period. Total B.O. in 2010 was $1.62 billion.

Data shows that 218 pics screened in China last year. By some estimates, around 500 were made in China in 2011.

There were 145 locally and co-produced movies in China last year and 78 imported movies, including Hong Kong and Taiwan films.

The government has made vague promises to free up its quota system for foreign pics, but there was not much evidence of this — there were exactly 20 revenue-share foreign movies released by the end of December.

A further 36 films were shown on a flat-fee basis and there were seven “special” films, which includes 3D or Imax productions. Altogether 35 films were imported from the U.S. last year.

The forecast for 2012 is again for 20 revenue-share films, 30 foreign movies on a flat-fee basis, and a “flexible” number of 3D and Imax films.

Hollywood 2011 tentpoles “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” and “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” have passed censors and will open on Jan. 15 and Jan. 28 respectively, to coincide with the lucrative Lunar New Year holiday period.

Other 2011 Hollywood fare expected in early 2012 include “Conan the Barbarian,” “Killer Elite,” “Trespass” and “Drive.”

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