Hollywood Pix Lose Ground at Chinese Box Office

Local pix up B.O. share from 44% to 69% in first quarter

BEIJING — Hollywood movies are gradually losing their appeal to Chinese auds because they are too “homogeneous,” Zhang Hongsen, head of the Film Bureau, said, after a strong performance by local pics in the first quarter.

Zhang’s optimistic reading was based on data from the new State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, which showed Chinese films took 69% of mainland B.O. in the first quarter of 2013, compared with 44% in the year-ago period.

There were growing contributions from theaters in smaller cities, where local residents “might not be as interested in Hollywood blockbusters as their metropolitan counterparts are,” Zhang told the official Xinhua news agency.

Hollywood has made a concerted effort to build up market share in China, now the world’s second biggest film market, and last year overseas pics outstripped their local counterparts, taking 52% of B.O., despite a quota of 34  foreign films per year on a revenue-share basis.

Foreign movies also face tougher releasing schedule issues and occasional blackouts to help boost local fare.

Chinese films took 3.6 billion yuan ($580 million), with six films passing the 100 million yuan ($16.2 million) mark.

The best performing pic in the early part of the year was Stephen Chow’s “Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons” (pictured), which took $200 million.

“Skyfall” and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” took some $48.5 million each in the foreign film category, followed by “A Good Day to Die Hard,” “Cloud Atlas” and “Resident Evil: Retribution” — all of which surpassed 100 million yuan ($16.2 million).

Of the 893 films released in 2012, 83% were Chinese films, but they only took 48.5% of the total B.O. James Cameron’s 3D version of “Titanic” was the best performing foreign pic last year, taking $150 million.

The new government agency was formed by the merger of the State Administration of Radio Film and TV (SARFT) and the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP). It’s not yet known what the new body will be called, as SGAPPRFT seems a little unwieldy.

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