×

China Box Office Overtakes North America in First Quarter of 2018

China’s theatrical box office overtook North America to become the biggest in the world in the first quarter of this year.

Gross theatrical revenues in China amounted to RMB20.2 billion in the three months to the end of March, according to data assembled by Variety from official and industry sources. Using a conservative exchange rate of RMB6.30 to the U.S. dollar, that equates to $3.17 billion. In comparison, North American theaters (comprising those in the U.S. and Canada) enjoyed aggregate revenues of $2.85 billion in the same period, according to data tracking and consultancy service ComScore.

It has frequently been predicted that the film business in China would overtake North America’s. But many forecasters got their timing wrong when more than a decade of unbroken Chinese growth stalled between mid-2016 and mid-2017.

The Chinese data for January to March point to a 39% bounce compared to the first quarter of 2017. However, that surge is unlikely to be sustained through the whole year. Chinese government sources have pointed to a 15% to 20% growth rate as more likely for 2018.

China’s box office in 2017 was RMB55.9 billion, which was reported as $8.6 billion using end 2017 exchange rates. The recent weakening of the dollar against the Chinese currency makes the Chinese figures bigger still.

Patriotic war action film “Operation Red Sea” was the top-scoring film in China in March, with close to $175 million (RMB1.1 billion) earned in the month. Released at Chinese New Year in February, “Operation Red Sea” has a cumulative total in China of $574 million, according to Chinese data service Ent Group. Disney’s “Black Panther” was second in March in China with $105 million (RMB659 million). It was followed by “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” a Hollywood sci-fi fantasy produced by Legendary Entertainment, which owned by China’s Dalian Wanda group.

ComScore showed that North American box office this year dropped by 2.6%, from $3 billion in the first quarter of 2017. That is despite the huge success of “Black Panther,” which recorded $651 million in the quarter, streets ahead of the $380 million of “Beauty and the Beast” in the equivalent period last year.

“The importance of China as a movie market cannot be overstated,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. “With homegrown titles such as ‘Detective Chinatown 2,’ ‘Operation Red Sea’ and ‘Monster Hunt ‘ posting massive numbers, along with U.S. titles such as ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Pacific Rim’ and most recently ‘Ready Player One’ relying on the market to bolster their bottom line, China has enjoyed an absolutely incredible first quarter at the 2018 box office.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Finding Farideh

    Oscars: Iran Picks Doc 'Finding Farideh' As International Feature Film Contender

    “Finding Farideh,” a feature-length documentary about an Iranian girl adopted at infancy by a Dutch couple who 40 years later travels to Iran in search of her biological parents, is Iran’s candidate for the recently renamed International Feature Film Oscar. Co-directed by young Tehran-based duo Azadeh Mousavi and Kourosh Ataee, the doc bridges East and West. [...]

  • Dogs Don’t Wear Pants

    Buyers Catch Valkeapaa's ‘Dogs Don’t Wear Pants’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rolling off its Cannes Directors’ Fortnight world bow, J.-P. Valkeapää’s BDSM movie “Dogs Don’t Wear Pants” has been sold by The Yellow Affair to new U.K. distributor Anti-Worlds for the U.K. and Ireland, as well as to The Klockworx Co for Japan, Ama Films for Greece, HHG for Russia/CIS, Pilot Film for the Czech Republic [...]

  • 'Kix,' 'Frem' Win Docu Talent Awards

    'Kix,' 'Frem' Win Docu Talent Awards at Sarajevo Film Festival

    Hungary’s “Kix” and Czech Republic’s “Frem” won the Docu Talent Awards, chosen from a field of 10 documentary features from Central and Eastern Europe, at the Sarajevo Film Festival on Sunday. “Kix,” directed by David Mikulan and Balint Revesz, is the story of Sanyi, a troubled youth, as he grows from eight to 18, morphing [...]

  • The Garden

    Bragason Brings ‘Woman at War’s’ Geirharosdottir to ‘The Garden’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Acclaimed actress Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, best known for “Woman at War,” is set to star in writer/director Ragnar Bragason’s dark comedy “The Garden.” Currently in post-production and to be pitched at Haugesund’s New Nordic Films over Aug. 20-23, “The Garden” is Bragason’s sixth feature and his first one since the 2013 Toronto entry “Metalhead.” “I did [...]

  • Costa Gavras

    Costa-Gavras to Receive San Sebastian Career Achievement Donostia Award

    Costa-Gavras, the Greek-born France-based director of some of the most famed movies of political cinema, from 1969’s “Z” to 1981’s “Missing,” will receive a career achievement Donostia Award at this September’s 67th San Sebastian Film Festival. The filmmaker will collect his prize on Sept. 21 at a ceremony held at San Sebastian’s Victoria Eugenia, where [...]

  • Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), Leonard (Bill

    China Box Office: New Animations No Match For 'Nezha' Domination

    Chinese animation “Nezha” continued its run as China’s biggest hit of the summer, maintaining its top spot at the box office even 25 days into its run with a weekend gross of $41.2 million. The tally made it this weekend’s fourth highest grossing film worldwide. Meanwhile, two other new animated titles performed unremarkably. The flop of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content