SINGAPORE — China’s box office is set to climb by $1 billion this year according to latest estimates by research organization EntGroup. But the importance of 3-D movies may be about to drop.

Amy Liu, EntGroup VP, said that theatrical box office for 2013 could hit $3.7 billion, compared with $2.7 billion last year. That is one of the highest forecasts to date and represents 37% year on year growth. Other predictions have forecast a more modest jump to a year end figure of $3-3.3 billion.

Liu said that 3-D films have enjoyed great success in China but that audience trends are changing and 3-D is less of a decisive factor than before.

According to an EntGroup survey, visual and audio effects now only rank as the seventh most important reason for Chinese audience to buy tickets. The top three reasons are genre, star cast and reviews.

China and the U.S. governments last year struck an historic deal that altered China’s import quotas and allowed an extra 14 3D and IMAX movies into the country.

While a significant proportion of the growth of the Chinese box office in the past ten years has come from ticket price increases, Liu said that Chinese audiences are expanding rapidly. She said that some 470 million tickets were sold last year, and that figure will climb to 640 million admissions in 2013.

EntGroup data differs from other organizations as to audience composition and theatre numbers, but trends remain in line with other pollsters. Liu said that average audience age will drop to 23 years old by 2015 from 25 years old in 2012.

She also showed that cinema screen numbers at the end of this year may reach 17,500, compared with 16,128 at the end of September and 13,118 at the end of December 2012. At the end of 2012 there were 3,680 cinema complexes, a figure which will rise to 4,600 by the end of this month.