China 2013 Box Office Surges 27 Percent to $3.6 Billion

Journey to the West H
Huayi Brothers Media

Preliminary data from the world's second-biggest movie market shows strength of homegrown films, but a smaller market share for Hollywood fare.

Chinese box office revenue rose $760 million (4.6 billion yuan) to $3.57 billion (21.6 billion yuan), an increase of 27 percent over last year's $2.8 billion (17 billion yuan), data from China's biggest online film review site, Mtime, showed on Thursday.

The figure marks a strong performance for the world's second-biggest film market, but it falls slightly short of the expectation of $3.64 billion (22 billion yuan).

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While the data will be cheered by Hollywood executives keen for a piece of this burgeoning market, U.S. titles did not perform as well as in previous years, after a strong showing by local players. Of the top 10 biggest films of the year here, seven were Chinese.

However, the report noted that two foreign movies in particular -- Justin Lin's Fast & Furious 6 and the latest James Bond movie Skyfall -- suffered because they were released weeks after they had opened elsewhere, in order to give local films a head start, while pirates ate into revenues.

The data is expected to be updated with official figures tallied by the state-owned publication China Film News, but the numbers are very much in line with what's already in circulation, which show that China's box office total breached the $3 billion barrier in late November, hitting $3.17 billion by the end of that month.

The biggest movie in China last year was Stephen Chow's Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, which took in $205.9 million, according to the figures. Journey passed the one-billion yuan threshold ($160 million) in China in just 16 days.

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This was followed by Marvel's Ironman 3, directed by Shane Black, which took in $124 million, some distance behind Chow's historical action epic. In third place was another local favorite, actress-turned-director Vicki Zhao’s directorial debut, So Young, which took in $117 million (710 million yuan).

The other big Hollywood moves in the top 10 were Pacific Rim, which grossed $114.7 million (694 million yuan), a fourth-place finish, and Gravity, which pulled in $72.7 million (440 million yuan), good for 10th in the list.

Fifth place went to Tsui Hark's action movie Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon, which notched $99.15 million (600 million yuan), while Feng Xiaogang's comedy Personal Tailor, which is still showing in the cinemas, came in sixth place with $96.2 million (582 million yuan).

Peter Chan's American Dreams in China, a comedy drama seen as a Chinese version of The Social Network and stars Huang Xiaoming, Deng Chao, Tong Dawei and supermodel Du Juan, came in seventh with $87.6 million (530 million yuan).

In eighth was Xue Xiaolu's romantic comedy Finding Mr. Right, which took in $84.28 million (510 million yuan), despite being made for just $5 million.

Guo Jingming's Tiny Times came in ninth place with $79.32 million (480 million yuan).

During the first half of 2013, Chinese films did better than expected, especially small productions like Tiny Times, So Young and Finding Mr. Right.