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Chinese Box Office Sets First Half Record

‘Transformers 4’ dominates weekend chart, but has modest impact on annual data

HONG KONG – “Transformers- Age of Extinction” enjoyed a huge debut in China and topped a massive week for Hollywood in the Middle Kingdom. But the highest-scoring film of the year so far remains Chinese. And with local and Hollywood titles powering ahead, combined box office for the first half of the year is up 22%.

The half-year figure comes from M1905, the movie channel arm of China Central Television. It reports that theatrical box office hit 13.4 billion yuan ($2.16 billion) in the six months to end of June. The increase of 22% is a shade less than the 27% full year gain made last year when annual B.O. rose to $3.6 billion, though the first half has regularly been slower than the second semester.

Top film this year is “The Monkey King” a China-Hong Kong co-production directed by Hong Kong’s Cheang Pou-soi with a cume of $170 million.

It beat second placed “X-Men: Days of Future Past” which clocked up $118 million and is the top Hollywood film so far this year. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” with $115 million is third this year and the second-ranked Hollywood title. “Dad, Where Are We Going?” a docu derived from a local TV reality show was fifth with $112 million.

Significantly for the endless war of words between Hollywood and the Chinese film industry, the first half of 2014 saw Hollywood reverse last year’s setback and claim a 52% market share. That gave foreign films $1.12 billion and Chinese films $1.04 billion.

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Much of the ranking seems set to be made redundant by the rise and rise of “Transformers 4,” which was only included for four days in the M1905 half-year data.

Paramount reported that “Transformers 4” scored a massive $90 million in its opening weekend. Local box office tracking firm Entgroup puts the figure at $99 million, garnering a massive 64% market share from 14.7 million admissions.

Other Hollywood movies “Maleficent,” “Godzilla” and “Edge of Tomorrow” took third, fourth and fifth places this week, with $16.5 million (for a cume of $38.7 million), $7.6 million (for a cume of $77 million) and $3.22 million (for a cume of $65.3 million).

A smart piece of counter-programming saw Chinese (anti-)romantic comedy “The Breakup Guru” snatch second place with $24.1 million from 4.53 million admissions.

The opening performance by “Transformers 4” makes Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman’s prediction that the film will break records look a near certainty. The previous installment reaped just $165 million in China.

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