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China Box Office Delivers 27% Surge in 2013

HONG KONG – China’s box office grew by 27% in 2013, rising from $2.7 billion (RMB17 billion) in 2012 to an estimated $3.57 billion (RMB21.6 billion) last year.

Data has been provided by local market researchers Ent Group, Artisan Gateway and movie website MTime. But official data by General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television has yet to be published.

Nevertheless, the figures from all the forecasters are less spectacular than some of the more lurid estimates, some of which had pointed to a 2013 total of around RMB25 billion, and they are short of the consensus range of RMB22-23 billion.

Local films claimed the majority of the haul – 59% according to some estimates – reversing the dominance of Hollywood in 2012. And seven of the top ten were local titles.

From the US, only “Iron Man 3,” “Pacific Rim” and “Gravity” made the top ten chart. “Iron Man 3” was initially intended to be a China-U.S. co-production, but eventually was considered an import film, albeit one which boasted a special Chinese version not screened anywhere else. “Gravity” saw a Chinese space ship help Sandra Bullock’s character safely make it back to earth, after an American craft was doomed.

The significant change of fortunes for local Chinese films was in large measure due to a string of small and medium budget titles that struck the right chord with the newcomers in China’s film audience – youngsters and inhabitants of smaller cities away from the biggest metropolises. Six topped the RMB500 million (US$82 million) landmark.

These were headed by aspirational films “So Young,” “American Dreams In China” and “Finding Mr Right” as well as youth oriented period fantasy “Young Detective Dee.” The Year’s top film was an unsurprising hit for the veteran funny man Stephen Chow, “Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons” (pictured).

Journey achieved an estimated $200 million, compared with $121 million for second place “Iron Man 3.”

In December, when foreign films are largely excluded from releasing, local films scored well. Feng Xiaogang’s comedy “Personal Tailor” had hit US$87.9 million (RMB537 million) by year end, while Jackie Chan vehicle had claimed US$45.3 million (RMB 277 million) in its first six days.

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