'Avatar' ends record run in China

IMAX still choosing 'Avatar' over 'Alice'

BEIJING -- "Avatar" has finally left China's regular movie screens after an unusually long run in which it grossed a record 1.3 billion yuan ($194 million), firmly cementing China as the world's No. 2 movie market.
 
Over nearly 90 days, director James Cameron's sci-fi blockbuster grossed more in China than in any territory other than the United States.
 
A 20th Century Fox official in charge of Greater China said the film took in 1,321.6 million yuan through Tuesday, Mar. 30, in the People's Republic.
 
Like Cameron's "Titanic" before it, "Avatar" now holds the all-time China boxoffice crown. "Titanic" held the No. 1 boxoffice spot in China from 1997-2008, when it was unseated in quick succession by Feng Xiaogang's "If You are the One," and then, in 2009, the Hollywood imports "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and "2012."
 
As one of China's 20 annual revenue-sharing imports brought in by state-run China Film Import & Export -- which gives Hollywood blockbusters a maximum of 17.5% of the gross -- "Avatar" could have sent about $34 million home to Fox headquarters.
 
Nobody from any of the Hollywood studios would say just how much Fox was likely to have spent on marketing the film that opened during a snowstorm in Beijing on Jan. 4, but word of mouth and China's growing taste for 3D and digital projection did much of the heavy lifting in getting the word out.
 
"It was extraordinary," said Wayne Jiang, theater manager for Broadway Cinemas in Beijing.  "We had never seen such dedication from the audience."
 
"Avatar" left China's 2D screens in February and was replaced this week on the nation's roughly 700 3D screens by director Tim Burton's 3D IMAX version of "Alice in Wonderland" from Walt Disney Pictures.
 
However, "Avatar" was still showing on Thursday on 10 IMAX screens in China. The film's IMAX gross through Mar. 30 was 153 million yuan ($22.4 million), also a record, an IMAX spokesperson in Shanghai said.
 
During its opening weekend ended Sunday, "Alice" grossed roughly 65 million yuan, or $9.6 million, a Disney official said.  By comparison, "Avatar" took in $4.8 million on its lone opening day.
 
"'Alice is doing well, but the audience is mostly young girls, so it's going to be a narrower," said Zhang, who does not operate an IMAX theater.
 
IMAX spokeswoman Jessie Chou in Shanghai said that many IMAX exhibitors, especially those with digital projectors, have chosen to keep "Avatar" in rotation because it's still doing well.
 
"It depends on the exhibitor, but for now, it appears many are sticking with 'Avatar' over 'Alice,'" she said.
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