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March 5, 2016

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China’s film industry celebrates box office record

OPTIMISM has been flowing in China’s film market over the past few months.

After setting a record of 44 billion yuan (US$6.7 billion) in 2015, China’s cinemas made history once again in February.

With 6.87 billion yuan in ticket sales, China’s box office surpassed North America (5.2 billion yuan) for the first time ever last month, according to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

The numbers have led to speculation that China’s annual box office could go on to surpass North America as soon as 2017.

“The speculation makes sense, though we cannot draw conclusions based on a single month,” said Shi Chuan, professor at Shanghai Theatre Academy.

The growing positive outlook is backed by staggering figures. Box office sales grew by 48.7 percent in 2015 and 1.25 billion tickets were sold last year, a 51.1 percent increase from 2014.

According to Shi, China’s box office sales could reach as high as 66 billion yuan in 2016 before overtaking North America’s box office in 2017, which stood at 72 billion yuan in 2015 with a 6.9 percent yearly increase.

“Last month’s situation was just a ‘preview’ of a future where China’s yearly box office tops the world,” said Liu Fan, a researcher at Chinese National Academy of Arts.

Many attribute last month’s success to the impact made by domestic films. In February, Chinese sci-fi comedy “The Mermaid” pulled in about 3.17 billion yuan after opening on February 8, setting a new Chinese box office record.

The previous record was held by domestic film “Monster Hunt,” which was released in July 2015 and raked in 2.44 billion yuan. Joined by the likes of “Goodbye, Mr Loser” and “Mojin-The Lost Legend,” China’s domestic films reached the next level in 2015.

Last year, domestic films maintained clear dominance in China, taking in 27.1 billion yuan in ticket sales, or 61.58 percent of the country’s total, despite fierce competition from Hollywood.

Backing the growing sales are swarms of people finding the joy of movie-going for the first time.

“The huge population of China brings considerable market potential,” said Zhang Yiwu, a literature professor at Peking University.

He said Chinese people have started to attach more importance to seeking entertainment. With more cinemas being built in smaller cities, he believes going to the cinema has become a more common way to spend leisure time in China.


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