How China is all set to overthrow North America as the world's biggest movie-market

Surendhar MK

April 10, 2018 12:56:30 IST

After setting an incredible benchmark with the single-month global box-office record in February this year, China has now emerged victorious with their theatrical revenue results for the first quarter of 2018. SAPPRFT (The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television), China's primary media regulatory authority, has confirmed that its first quarter box-office earnings have amounted to $3.2 billion, a whopping figure which comfortably topples North America’s $2.85 billion in the same period.

It is the first time that China has outperformed North America’s quarterly results in the box-office history – thanks to the local Spring Festival releases Operation Red Sea, Detective Chinatown 2 and Monster Hunt 2. The cumulative box-office receipts between the three homegrown blockbusters totaled nearly $1.47 billion, contributing close to 50% of its quarterly revenue.

Also read: Why Black Panther and other Hollywood films failed to unseat Aamir Khan's Secret Superstar at the Chinese box office

While the other mainland releases pitched in half a billion dollars to the quarterly takings, import films – including Indian blockbusters Secret Superstar, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, and the studio-backed Hollywood tentpoles such as Black Panther, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Tomb Raider, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle to name a few – pulled in the remaining theatrical earnings.

Chinese women posed in front of a poster for Dangal at a Beijing theater in May last year. AP Image.

While PRC moviegoers set a global single-month box-office milestone in February 2018 with a cumulative total of $1.57 billion – edging out the long-held record of North America's $1.395 billion from July 2011 – China, last month, witnessed the biggest March in its box-office history with $813 million cume.

This stellar quarterly box-office feat comes at a time when China is on the verge of uncrowning North America as the world’s largest movie market. Or has it already? According to the latest report published by Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), global theatrical revenue (films made across the entire world) of 2017 touched a record high of $40.6 billion, a five percent increase from 2016. However, in the North American box office (the US and Canada), the cumulative 2017 gross of $11.1 billion showed a 2 percent decline from 2016’s record of $11.4 billion.

Also on Firstpost: Ready Player One races past Secret Superstar at Chinese box office; becomes Warner Bros' highest grosser in the country

“That’s an indication of the maturity of the US/Canada market and going forward; year-over-year statistics are likely to continue to fluctuate between all-time highs and near-all-time-highs,” observed Charles Rivkin, Chairman, and CEO, MPAA in the survey. Compared to 2016, a six percent slump in North America’s tickets/admissions (1.24 billion) in 2017 was also pointed out in the report.

China’s 2017 gross of $7.9 billion, on the other hand, demonstrated a substantial annual growth with a 21 percent increase in box-office compared to 2016. Now, the Middle Kingdom has already raked in 40% of its 2017 box-office receipts from the first quarter of 2018.

With Ready Player One currently setting the cash registers ringing – it is the first import film of 2018 to soar past the RMB 1 billion mark in China – and the highly-anticipated Avengers: Infinity War scheduled for release on 11 May, we can expect the Chinese box-office to surge ahead in the next two months.

Shedding light on the difference in the year-on-year growths of North America and China, Julia Jenks, VP, Worldwide Research, MPAA, noted: “In evaluating those numbers, it’s helpful to keep in mind the differences between the US/Canada market, which is a mature market with more than 263 million moviegoers, a high ratio of screens to population, and currently the largest box office globally – and many other markets around the world. In mature markets, year-on-year percentage growth may be more limited, while in under-screened and developing markets, change may be larger in percentage terms.”

Regarding screens, China has decisively emerged as the world’s largest movie market now.

Also read: Hindi Medium records higher box office opening than Dangal, Bajrangi Bhaijaan in China; Irrfan's highest grosser worldwide

According to National Film Bureau of China, there are 9,965 theaters in the country with 54,165 screens including 500+ IMAX cinemas and the United States houses nearly 40,393 screens of which 15,530 can showcase 3D films. The rapid increase in the number of screens in China, from 18,195 in 2013 to 54,165 in 2018, shows the phenomenal growth of the mainland movie market.

The declining ticket sales in North America, studios’ dependency on the Middle Kingdom to rake in the moolah (Pacific Rim: Uprising, Tomb Raider, Ready Player One opened largely better in mainland cinemas than the US), the proliferation of local blockbusters in the PRC and the constantly mushrooming box-office records against Hollywood, strongly establish the true-blue potential of China to emerge as the world’s largest movie market soon.

Updated Date: Apr 10, 2018 12:56 PM