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AFM: China’s Booming Movie Market Is Getting Younger

Experts on the booming Chinese moviegoing market are advising producers to prepare for profound changes in customer behavior.

“The focus of the business is on young people,” said Yang Xianghua of streaming service iQiyi.com at Friday’s panel at the Fairmount Hotel at the American Film Market.

“Sixty percent of ticket sales are now taking place from mobile devices,” he added.

The event drew several hundred attendees, with Variety Asia editor Patrick Frater moderating and noting that the Chinese box office will top the U.S. box office in 2017.

Film director Jiang Haiyang noted that a recent survey showed the average moviegoer in China is currently 21.8 years old. He added that attendance is being driven by young adults wanting to have a communal experience at theaters — even if it’s a poorly reviewed firm.

“People will often go to see just how bad it is,” Jiang said, evoking major laughs from the audience.

The attendance is also driven by younger Chinese being more interested in visual entertainment rather than in books,” he noted. “Going to the movies for them helps fulfill their visual dreams,” Jiang said.

Xianghua pointed out that much of the growth has come from so-called fourth-tier markets — new cities of less than 1 million: “I grew up in a town of 300,000 that had only one theater, but that’s all changed.”

William Pfeiffer, CEO of Dragongate Entertainment, pointed out that the jump in the number of cinemas has also been driven by real estate development. “Cinemas are a part of most new projects,” he added.

Speakers also indicated that they do expect the Chinese government to eventually allow for an increase in the number of U.S. titles, currently at 34 per year and limited to avoid “blackout” periods around local holidays.

“The Chinese titles are already taking over 60% of the box office,” Pfeiffer said.

Pfeiffer also said he’s optimistic about “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2,” which opens day and date in China with the rest of the world.

“We have high expectations,” he noted. “It’s being marketed as the best of the four.”

“Mockingjay — Part 1” took in $36 million in China, the second-largest take internationally after $48 million in the U.K.

The film is being imported by China Film Group’s Import Export Company and will be jointly distributed by China Film Group and Huaxia in conjunction with Lionsgate’s promotional partner, Talent International.

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