China’s 2015 box office sales hit the record high of 40 billion yuan ($6.3 billion) on Dec 3, growing more than 48 percent from the same period last year, official data showed on Dec 4.
It is the first time box office sales in the world’s second largest film market reached such a high milestone, according to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT).
The administration said domestic films pulled in 23.7 billion yuan, accounting for more than 59 percent of the total box office earnings.
Among the top 10 earners during the recording period, domestic films, including the live action animation “Monster Hunt” and the animation “Monkey King: Hero is Back,” took six spots.
Foreign productions that made the top 10 list include “Furious 7,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Jurassic World” and “Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation.”
Earlier statistics from the administration showed China’s 2015 box office sales exceeded the 2014 total of 29.6 billion yuan in early September.
China’s film market has posted an average growth of 30 percent year on year since 2003, when the industry began to embrace more market-oriented reform measures.
China’s box office sales increased from 1 billion yuan to 40 billion yuan in the same period, with 1.14 billion tickets sold in 2015. In 2003, only 70 million tickets were sold.
Growing customer demand and investments have served as the “twin engines” accelerating development, said Shi Chuan, vice chairman of the Shanghai Film Association.
Put simple, Chinese people have cultivated the habit of going to cinemas, according to Yin Hong, a professor with Tsinghua University.
A boom in new theaters and screens is also contributing to fast-growing ticket sales, since ticket prices have remained stable for the last few years, according to Yin.
According to the administration, at present, there are about 31,000 screens in more than 6,200 cinemas nationwide, compared with 2000 and 1000 respectively 12 years ago.
Both domestic and foreign films benefit from the growing market. In recent years, Chinese blockbusters have developed to become sizable competitors for their Hollywood counterparts.
In September, with total box office sales exceeding 2.428 billion yuan, domestic live-action animation “Monster Hunt” overtook “Furious 7” to become the highest-grossing film in the Chinese market.
YOUNG AUDIENCE ARE EMERGING
There were an estimated 100 million tickets sold every month in 2015, with most of the sales going to young moviegoers, with an increasing amount from smaller cities.
Maoyan.com, an online movie ticket sales platform, found 57 percent of its users were born after 1990.
Dadi Cinema found the share of people in big cities had actually decreased from 25 percent in 2011 to 18 percent in the first three quarters of 2015. The number of moviegoers in smaller cities grew from 75 percent to 82 percent.
“We should have faith in the future as the next ten years will be a golden decade for Chinese film industry,” said Ren Zhonglun, president of Shanghai Film Group Corporation.
He believes there is plenty of room for expansion when compared with markets in the Republic of Korea, United States and Australia, where people go to cinemas four times a year on average.
China’s annual box office sales are expected to reach 100 billion yuan by 2020, according to industry estimates.
Based on current annual growth, some analysts predict the country’s box office sales might surpass that of the United States as early as 2017.
However, as Shi pointed out, there is still a huge gap between the Chinese and American film industry.
In the United States, revenues for the film industry mainly come from merchandise sales, while the box office accounts for 30 percent at most.
“In the coming years, China’s film industry has to diversify its production and improve its creativity to close the gap,” Shi said.