×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

China’s First-Quarter Box Office Drops 8%

Sagging performance by local films and a modest Chinese New Year haul left the Chinese box office down 8% in the first quarter of this year.

Gross box office in the three months from January to March 2019 totaled RMB18.6 billion ($2.77 billion), according to data from specialty consultancy Artisan Gateway. That compares with revenue of RMB20.2 billion ($3.01 billion) in the same period of 2018.

The quarter is usually one of the busiest and most important of the year as it spans the Chinese New Year (aka Lunar New Year or Spring Festival) holidays, which can fall either in January, or February. And many distributors target their key, general entertainment films releases at the time in order to catch family audiences.

This year’s Spring Festival produced an unexpected winner in Chinese-made sci-fi film “The Wandering Earth,” which has gone on to accumulate $693 million, but other films including “Crazy Alien” underperformed, or flopped. In total, the holiday period produced only a 1.8% improvement on 2018, at RMB5.9 billion ($878 million).

That should be considered as like for like decrease, given that Chinese exhibition companies have brought on stream 8,000 new screens in the previous 12 months. Artisan Gateway reports that China counts 63,600 cinema screens, of which nearly 90%, or 56,900 of which are 3D capable.
The market share enjoyed by Chinese-language films in the first quarter dropped three percentage points, from 74% in 2018 to 71% in 2019.

The total number of new film releases and the number of foreign films entering the market on revenue sharing quota import terms both dropped. While 116 films obtained releases between January and March 2018, only 102 reached theaters in the equivalent 2019 period. Quota imports dropped from 15 in early 2018, to just 10 in 2019, and “Bumblebee,” released on Jan. 4, was the top grossing foreign of the quarter with $171 million.

While the gross figures look weak, the admissions trend is worse. The total number of tickets sold dropped by 14% from 561 million in the first three months of 2018, to 480 million this year. The admissions fall was cushioned by an increase in mean ticket prices. These rose from an average of RMB36.1 ($5.37) in the first quarter of last year, to RMB38.8 ($5.77) in the quarter just completed.

The first quarter downtrend continues a weak December, and extends what some in the Chinese industry are now referring to as a long cold winter. Last year, box office barely scraped over the government set target.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Noele trailer Anna Kendrick

    Disney Unveils 'Noelle' Trailer Starring Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader

    Among the many announcements at the D23 Expo, Disney debuted the first look at holiday feature “Noelle,” which is set to premiere exclusively on Disney Plus this fall. “It isn’t Christmas without Santa’s Sister,” Walt Disney Studios said of the film on Twitter. Starring Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader, the Christmas flick tells the story [...]

  • A Hidden Life Movie Austria

    Film News Roundup: Austin Festival Selects Terrence Malick's 'A Hidden Life'

    In today’s film news roundup, the Austin Film Festival selects a Terrence Malick title, “A Day Without a Mexican” gets a sequel and DCR Finance signs a first-look deal. FESTIVAL SCREENING The Austin Film Festival will screen Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life,” which won the Francois Chalais and Ecumenical Jury awards at the Cannes Film [...]

  • Blake Lively

    Blake Lively's 'Rhythm Section' Moved Back to 2020

    Paramount Pictures has moved the release date of Blake Lively’s “The Rhythm Section” back two months from Nov. 22 to Jan. 31, 2020, the weekend of Super Bowl LIV. The spy tale, adapted from Mark Burnell’s novels surrounding character Stephanie Patrick, is produced by James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson through their [...]

  • The Mandalorian

    'The Mandalorian': Watch the First Trailer for 'Star Wars' Series

    The gunslinging lone warrior — the Mandalorian, as they call him — calls the far reaches of the “Star Wars” galaxy home. Disney dropped the first trailer for the spinoff series during its biennial D23 convention on Friday, finally giving fans a closer look at the franchise’s newest character. “The Mandalorian” creator Jon Favreau, who [...]

  • Lady and the Tramp trailer

    'Lady and the Tramp': Disney's Live-Action Remake Gets First Trailer (Watch)

    Ready your dog-friendly bowl of spaghetti, Disney has debuted the first trailer for its live-action remake of “Lady and the Tramp,” starring Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux. The teaser was released during Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim at the Disney + presentation. In addition to Thompson and Theroux, who play the Lady and Tramp, respectively, [...]

  • Mickey Mouse waves to members of

    Spider-Man, Spicer and Splashy First-Looks: Everything We're Looking For at D23

    As if Disney hasn’t owned enough weekends this year at the box office, the biennial D23 Expo will light up Anaheim, Calif. over the next three days to celebrate the content monolith. From a new Netflix-competing streaming platform to scores of movie and series reveals — along with a few hot controversies to confront — [...]

  • Angel Has Fallen

    'Angel Has Fallen' to Dominate Modest Box Office With $20 Million Weekend

    Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman are leading the way at the North American box office with “Angel Has Fallen” on its way to about $20 million, early estimates showed Friday. Should forecasts hold, “Angel Has Fallen” will take in about double the next title, Universal’s second weekend of raunchy comedy “Good Boys” with about $10 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content