2009 Box Office Review - China- Part 1
Chinese box office surged 44% last year on revenues of ¥6.2 billion, up from ¥4.3 billion in 2008, primarily driven by new cinema construction and a swelling of the middle class. Mostly multiplexes were erected in large shopping malls, which added 386 screens this year to the marketplace in what is potentially the world’s biggest market.
The phenomenal growth in the Chinese film industry last year is led by three Hollywood productions and one homegrown hit which all broke the ¥400 million mark.
“Avatar” grossed ¥33 million at the box office on it’s record setting opening day January 4 and is fast approaching Roland Emmerich’s “2012.” “2012” had a pro-China subplot and earned ¥460 million at the box office, knocking top grossing film “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” off its crown where it was holding “Transformers” was holding the ¥450 million biggest grossing record in China box office history. “2012” opened on November 13 with a wide release on 1900 screens.
Local favorite, “The Founding of a Republic” which celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Communist Party’s rise to power, collected ¥415 million across 1400 prints on its opening day and claims the most successful Chinese film of all time title. There is a sequel, “The Founding of a Party” planned as a result of the first film’s success.
Another local film, the sequel “Red Cliff 2” earned fifth place as it took ¥259 million in revenues while “A Simple Noodle Story” has pulled in ¥232.4 million as of this writing.
“Bodyguard and Assassins” is also still in release but had earned enough at ¥208 milion to place sixth for the year.
“City of Life and Death” came in seventh with a ¥172 million take followed by three American films to round out the top ten. China produced 456 domestic films in 2009, 56 more than in 2008.
“Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” (¥157 million), “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” (¥156 million) and “G.I. Joe”(¥134 million) finished eighth, ninth and tenth, respectively for the year.
In the six weeks from mid November to late December, ticket sales on the Chinese mainland reached nearly ¥1.1 billion, setting a new record for the time period.
China imports around 20 foreign films a year for theatrical release, allowing foreign distributors to take home about 15% of the gross. China Film is the sole licensed importer and the country’s largest distributor. The two major obstacles for industry development had been the shortage of investment and poor distribution channels because many Chinese didn’t fully understand the film market as a concept and didn’t believe it was a viable business to operate. That’s now changing.
Since 2003, the country’s box office growth had averaged 30% though in 2008, that number dipped to 27%. State Administration of Radio Film and Television cited that China was adding 1.65 new screens every day last year.
China currently has 1,635 cinemas with 4700 screens, of which 750 are 3D and 1800 are digital, up an additional 603 screens from 2008. Ticket prices in China are equivalent to, and in some cases higher than, ticket prices in the U.S. A ticket to "Avatar" in Beijing is ¥150.4.
Ellen Pittleman, http://hybridentus.com, is a veteran studio executive based in Los Angeles. Most recently, she served as SVP, International Co-Productions and Worldwide Acquisitions for Paramount Pictures. She also launched the DVD Premiere group there, with films including Jonathan Demme’s “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” and the sequel to the $100MM+ “Save the Last Dance.” Working from a marketing and distribution perspective, she consults on strategic planning, deal negotiation, acquisitions, film library valuation and feature development with clients from Rio to London to Beijing. She’s also currently developing a feature on George Foreman’s comeback years, among other projects.