China passes US at movie box office

Updated: 2015-03-03 12:08

By Bian Jibu in New York(China Daily USA)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

China passes US at movie box office

Moviegoers leave a Wanda theater in Yichang, in central China's Hubei province, in January. Wanda bought AMC Theatres in 2012. Propelled by the Spring Festival, Chinese movie theaters rang up $650 million in revenue in February. Zhou Jianping / Asianewsphoto

A record Lunar New Year at movie theaters helped box-office revenue in China pass the United States in February for the first time, making China the world's biggest box-office market for the month, according to research firm Entgroup.

The holiday brought in $650 million in the world's second-largest movie market, according to data from Entgroup. The US total was $640 million, and $710 million for all of North America in February.

Before February, the biggest box-office month ever in China was July 2014, with $580 million. The Lunar New Year has become the peak moviegoing period in China. This year, it ran Feb. 18-24. Box office during that week alone amounted to $270 million, according to data site

The top movie in China for February was The Man From Macau II, starring Chow Yun-Fat, which brought in $104 million, followed by historical action movie Dragon Blade, starring Jackie Chan, John Cusack and Adrien Brody, which had $95 million in box-office receipts during the month.

In third place was the $40 million Sino-French epic Wolf Totem, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, which brought in $72 million.

In fourth was Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal, a $30 million, 3D, VFX fantasy action adventure co-directed by Peter Pau and Zhao Tianyu and produced by Ann An of Desen International Media, with $56 million, followed by Xu Jinglei's romance Somewhere Only We Know with $44 million.

Running Man, an adaptation of a Korean reality-TV format, made $42 million in February.

In the US, the biggest Hollywood movie in the month was The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, which brought in $36 million. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, the latest installment in Lionsgate's YA film franchise, amassed $35.5 million in China in February.

In 2014, box-office returns in China surged 36 percent, Zhang Hongsen, head of the film bureau under the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, told the Xinhua news agency.

Last year's returns in the US were down more than 5 percent, to an estimated $10.35 billion, compared with $10.92 billion in 2013, according to tracking firm Rentrak, and no movie made more than $350 million from theaters in the US and Canada for the first time since 2007.

China's box office was boosted by strong growth in the number of theaters and screens. China added 1,015 cinemas and 5,397 screens last year, bringing the total number of screens to 23,600. "On average, 15 more screens were added each day," Zhang said. A total of 618 Chinese films were produced in 2014, down from 638 in 2013.

More people went to see movies than ever in 2014, with viewers making 830 million trips to the cinema, up 34.5 percent year-on-year, SAPPRFT said. Earnings of 66 films surpassed the locally symbolic 100 million yuan ($16.11 million) benchmark last year, including 36 domestic productions. In 2013, 60 films surpassed that figure.

Analysts are predicting that 2015 will be a banner year for US movie theaters because of a strong lineup of blockbuster films and solid early returns, the Wall Street Journal reported Feb 27. The three biggest movie chains in the US are Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc and Cinemark Holdings Inc.

Despite a box office downturn, AMC Entertainment, which is owned by China's Dalian Wanda Group Corp, reported on Feb 17 that fourth-quarter earnings beat Wall Street's expectations. AMC said earnings were 30 cents a share, while revenue of $712.2 million was about in line with projections, according to Variety.

Analysts had projected earnings of 20 cents a share and sales of $712.1 million, according to FactSet.

Net earnings for AMC came in at $29.8 million, a steep decline from the $279.6 million the company recorded during the same quarter in 2013. However, that was related to a one-time tax benefit of $265.6 million.