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September showed more of the slowdown that has gripped the Chinese theatrical market since mid-year.

Box office of $342 million (RMB2.30 billion) for the month was down 43% compared with August. And it was 33% weaker than September last year, according to data from Ent Group.

The latest numbers further dent the prospect of China’s box office overtaking that of North America any time soon. That prospect had been hailed loudly at the beginning of the year after China’s cinema market leaped by 49% in 2015.

Box office this year is still running ahead of last year, but at a much slower expansionary pace.

For the first nine months of this year the cumulative total is $5.28 billion (RMB35.4 billion), up only 8.3% compared with $4.88 billion (RMB32.8 billion) between January and the end of September last year. Admissions are running ahead by 14% at 1.05 billion, compared with 923 million in the first three quarters of 2015.

(Reflecting the more than 5% weakening of the Chinese currency over the past year, the year-on-year growth rate when expressed in constant dollar terms is a mere 2%.)

This month local media cheered as Chinese-language films dominated last week’s ‘Golden Week’ holidays in China and, headed by Bona Film Group’s muscular action picture “Operation Mekong,” occupied the top four chart places. But Ent Group data showed that the festive week was down 14% in revenue terms compared with 2015 and down 9.7% in admissions terms.

The previous three Golden Week periods have been a bonanza for the industry with annual leaps of 56%, 76% and 71% in revenues.

The slowdown has a number of implications.

Single figure market growth implies that revenues on a per cinema basis have contracted this year. That’s because new theaters continue to come on stream. At the end of 2015 there were some 31,600 screens according to official figures. The end of this year will likely end close to 40,000.

Ticket prices have also weakened. The September average was RMB31.6 ($4.71) compared with RMB33.7 in September last year. The price drop reflects at least two factors, geographical expansion into smaller towns and cities where the cost of living and wages are generally lower than the biggest metropolises, and second, increasing competition between theaters as cinema venues multiply in each market.

That should then force a slowdown of new cinema building, and a likely consolidation of operators as the marginal ones see their finances weaken.

Deep-pocketed firms will likely continue to build and to acquire the stragglers. Alibaba Pictures Group, hitherto focused on production and distribution, has announced diversification into exhibition through building and acquisition. Similarly, Perfect World Pictures the film production and distribution arm of a games company, recently bought the Antaeus cinema chain.

And Wanda Cinema Line, the country’s largest cinema operator, today revealed nine-month revenues of $867 million (RMB5.76 billion). That’s a 29% increase that shows Wanda considerably outpacing the lackluster nationwide average.