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China Box Office Passes 10 Billion Yuan Milestone

Local pics’ surge may help H’wood

BEIJING — China’s B.O. continues to surge, with 6-month revenues rising by 27% to breach the 10 billion yuan ($1.61 billion) barrier for the first time ever in the first half of the year. Local pics grabbed a muscular 63% market share.

With roughly 10 screens being built a day in China, the demand for content continues to grow. Signs of an expanding market share for Chinese movies is probably good news for Hollywood, as it may help to ease Chinese government fears that foreign content will overwhelm domestic movies if controls are relaxed further.

In the year to June 23, Chinese B.O. was $1.68 billion, up 27% year-on-year. Domestic productions contributed $1.05 billion, grabbing a market share of 63%. This is more than double the figure from the same period last year, and it’s the first time in five years that local Chinese movies have outperformed imported movies in the first half, according to the EntGroup Consultancy in Beijing.

“Ever since the huge success of the low-budget comedy ‘Lost in Thailand,’ which was released in December, Chinese viewers’ enthusiasm and expectations for domestic film productions have jumped,” Huang Ting, industry analyst with EntGroup, told the China Daily.

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In the first six months, 146 films were screened of which 117 were domestic. Foreign movies’ ticket sales were down 27% year-on-year at $620 million, the report said.

Of the 10 highest-grossing films in the market to date, four of the six domestic ones were screened during the first half, including Stephen Chow’s “Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons,” which took $200 million and actress-turned-helmer Vicki Zhao’s directorial debut “So Young,” (pictured) which took more than $114 million.

“The quality improvement has been the most critical element in leading domestic films to surpass imported productions in terms of box office revenue,” Huang Qunfei, general manager of Beijing New Film Assn., one of China’s largest theater chains, told local media.

He said he expected imported pics to have a better second half because of the arrival of the summer blockbusters, but overall, Chinese movies are looking at a very good year.

China is now the world’s second-largest movie market behind the U.S., with B.O. of $2.74 billion in 2012, and many forecasts have it nabbing the No. 1 spot within the next five years or so.

In February 2012 the Chinese government expanded the quota of overseas movies from around 20 to 34 per year on a revenue-share basis, including enhanced format pics.

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