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China Surges 36% in Total Box Office Revenue

HONG KONG — China’s box office surged ahead by 36% to hit $4.82 billion (RMB29.6 billion) in 2014.

That consolidated China’s position as the world’s second largest theatrical territory, with a total that was 47% of the North American cumulative, which slipped 5% in 2014 to $10.3 billion.

In 2013, China’s box office hit $3.57 billion or 4.6 billion yuan.

While “Transformers: Age of Extinction” was the year’s top film, for the second year in a row local films bettered the competition from Hollywood. Local films accounted for a combined $2.64 billion in 2014 (RMB16.2 billion) and a 55% market share.

That was a considerable achievement for Chinese cinema, considering that the import quotas were expanded in 2012 to allow more Hollywood imports. But the score might have been higher still had some of the most anticipated Chinese films performed better in the key December month, when local films are favoured and Hollywood effectively locked out.

Both John Woo’s “The Crossing” and Jiang Wen’s “Gone With The Bullets” underperformed in December, in a repeat of the lesson supposedly learned in December 2012 when the expected blockbusters by big name directors were trounced by low budget “Lost In Thailand.”

The biggest Chinese hits of 2014 were contemporary and youth-driven titles “Breakup Buddies,” “The Breakup Guru,” and “The Continent” with family entertainer “Dad Where Are We Going” in the top five, along with fantasy “The Monkey King” the most traditional. One late December success was “The Taking of Tiger Mountain,” a big budget, 3D war-adventure film, directed by well-established maverick Tsui Hark, which kicked off with a $51 million opening weekend.

According to data from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, a total of 618 Chinese films were produced in 2014, compared with 638 were made in 2013. That was the second year that production dropped slightly. The number of Chinese films achieving theatrical release, however, is likely to have been less than half that total.

Data from SAPPRFT show cinema admissions rising to 830 million, up 34.5% compared with 617 million in 2013. That implies minimal inflation in the mean national ticket price, a figure which is constantly being pulled lower as more cinemas open in second, third and fourth tier cities where prices are lower than the three major metropolises.

Some 1,015 cinema complexes were opened in 2014, delivering 5,397 new screens – an average of 15 new screens per day — and bringing the total number of screens to 23,600.

Chinese films combined overseas gross hit $305 million (RMB1.87 billion), up 32%, according to SAPPRFT.

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