China Box Office: Foreign Quota Movies Saw Revenue Rise 60 Percent in 2014

Paramount Pictures

Overseas titles have grossed $1.81 billion in the world's second-biggest movie market this year

Foreign titles that made the 34 film quota set by the Chinese government grossed $1.81 billion (11.2 billion RMB) in 2014, around one third of the total box office in China, reported M1905, which is the official website of the state broadcaster’s movie channel, CCTV6.

The increase in box office for overseas quota movies is up 60 percent on last year's figure. In 2012, China's President Xi Jinping expanded the quota of overseas movies from around 20 to 34 per year on a revenue-share basis, including enhanced format movies.

The most successful foreign movie in China this year was Transfomers 4: Age of Extinction, with $319.58 million in receipts, while the lowest sales for a revenue-sharing movie was $110,000 for Mandela.

The full table below, dominated by Hollywood films, also shows how difficult the environment remains for overseas films, as even though there are 34 quota films, only 33 were screened.

Read more China Reportedly Close to Launching Online Quota for Foreign Shows

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 was given a quota place, but was pulled from release by film authorities to give an easier ride to domestic movies in the last quarter of the year. It is expected to screen in February next year.

The system restricting foreign imports to 34 movies a year on a revenue-share basis is expected to open up in 2017-2018 as China is required to honor the terms of an World Trade Organization agreement on quotas signed in 2012, and that was valid for only five years.

The strong growth of the Chinese market — box office is expected to reach nearly $5 billion this year with 25,000 screens nationwide — means that its importance is ever greater to Hollywood. The Robocop and Need for Speed examples illustrate that mixed domestic results can be turned into a bonanza in the Chinese market.

Read more China's Foreign Movie Quota Set to Expand -- For Art House Films

But the films that overtly pandered to the Chinese did well, none more so than Transformers, a film that deliberately cast Chinese stars, used Chinese locations and made China a central part of the plot. 

Also of note, science fiction accounted for most of top overseas movies — not bad for a genre that was technically banned by the censors here until recently.

The box office performance of all 34 foreign quota films in China is below. 

1. Transformers 4: Age of Extinction — $319.58 million
2. Interstellar — $121.63 million
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past — $118.24 million
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier — $115.50 million
5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — $108.47 million
6. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — $96.11 million
7. Guardians of the Galaxy — $93.37 million
8. Godzilla — $78.63 million
9. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug — $74.87 million
10. Need for Speed — $67.28 million
11. Edge of Tomorrow — $66.42 million
12. How to Train Your Dragon 2 — $65.15 million
13. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — $63.58 million
14. RoboCop — $50.90 million
15. Maleficent — $48.30 million
16. Frozen — $48.24 million
17. Penguins of Madagascar — $40.98 million
18. Rio 2 — $39.50 million
19. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit — $25.91 million
20. The Maze Runner — $24.39 million
21. Ender's Game — $22.39 million
22. Transcendence — $20.43 million
23. Mr. Peabody & Sherman — $19.95 million
24. Into the Storm — $17.78 million
25. Non-Stop — $16.93 million
26. Hercules: The Thracian Wars — $13.20 million
27. Snowpiercer — $12.28 million
28. The Monuments Men — $7.69 million
29. Ice Age 2: The Meltdown — $6.60 million
30. Battle of Myeongryang — $2.91 million
31. Tarzan — $2.12 million
32. Eyjafjallajokull — $0.65 million
33. Mandela — $0.11 million
34. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 — n/a released pushed back to Feb. 2015

Twitter: @cliffordcoonan

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