2010 China BO could reach almost $1.5 bil

SARFT exec predicts 61% jump for this year's gross

BEIJING -- China's 2010 boxoffice gross could exceed 10 billion yuan ($1.47 billion), jumping 61% this year, according to one of the country's top industry regulators, state-run media reported.

La Peikang, a deputy director of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, made the forecast on Saturday, the May 1 Labor Day holiday, one of the busiest movie-going weekends in the year, while speaking at an animated films forum in the eastern city of Hangzhou, the Xinhua News Agency said.

As the number of movie theaters quintupled from 2003-2009 to more than 5,000 to meet growing demand for entertainment among China's burgeoning middle class, China's boxoffice gross surged to 6.2 billion yuan ($909 million) last year, up from less than 1 billion yuan in 2003.

In 2009, films made in China took home a 56.6% share of the gross, while the rest was dominated by Hollywood films such as "Transformers II" and "2012."

This year's boxoffice got off to a big start with Hollywood's 3D blockbuster "Avatar," which grossed a record 1.3 billion yuan ($190 million dollars) in China at the beginning of the year, according to the film's distributor, the China Film Group Corp.

In the second half of the year, a raft of big Chinese-language films will premiere, including, in July, director Feng Xiaogang's "Aftershock" from Huayi Brothers Media, will compete with Hollywood imports such as the latest "Harry Potter" film.