China is top international territory

BEIJING — China’s box office surged to 16.8 billion yuan ($2.69 billion) last year, up from 2011’s $2.03 billion, overtaking Japan as the top-earning international territory.

Japan is estimated to hit about $2.35 billion in 2012, after taking $2.27 billion in 2011.

Of the 303 movies shown in Chinese theaters last year, 76 imported pics accounted for the lion’s share of the earnings at about $1.4 billion, while 227 local films took nearly 48% at $1.28 billion.

Some 80% of the Chinese films lost money.

The figures were published in the digital edition of the People’s Daily and attributed to regulator, the State Administration of Radio, Film and TV.

James Cameron’s 3D version of “Titanic” was the best performing foreign pic, taking in $150 million. “Avatar” still holds the all-time record, after it took $220 million in 2010.

Hollywood movies were boosted in China after the quota of foreign films allowed into the country was increased in February from around 20 to 34, including Imax and 3D movies.

Homegrown movies were given a boost late in the year by the low-budget pic “Lost in Thailand,” which became the best performing local film of all time, smashing the 1 billion yuan ($160 million) threshold against all expectations. It took $158.6 million of that total in calendar 2012.

The only other two Chinese movies to make the top 10 last year were “Painted Skin: The Resurrection” and Jackie Chan’s “Chinese Zodiac 12.”

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