83% of pix were Chinese, but took only 48.5% of B.O.

CHENGDU — China’s box office rose 31% to 17.1 billion yuan ($2.75 billion) last year, according to media regulator State Administration of Radio, Film and TV, correcting earlier figures in the local press.

The figure is substantially more than the $2.69 billion reported by People’s Daily last week and attributed to SARFT (Variety, Jan. 4).

China has now overtaken 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. China’s B.O. in 2011 was $2.03 billion.

The data confirms that Chinese pics are suffering in the new environment, which makes it open season for Hollywood in what is still the fastest growing major market in the world. Of the 893 films released, 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. “Avatar” still holds the record, after it took $220 million in 2010.

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

Local 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, taking $158.6 million in 2012.

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

Film Bureau chief Tong Gang said the data illustrated the challenge facing the local biz. “Telling stories in a Chinese way has not improved, which means we can’t sell overseas,” said Tong.

A total of 3,832 new screens were added to the market last year to total 13,118.

Six cinema chains had takings of more than 600 billion yuan ($96.3 billion), and Wanda became the first chain in China with 2 billion yuan ($320 million) B.O.

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