China Box Office: Growth Returns in August After Prolonged Downturn

Time Raiders Still - 2016
Le Vision

The uptick comes after the Chinese market suffered its first quarterly decline in half a decade, followed by an 18 percent drop in ticket sales in July.

China's box office shifted back into growth mode in August after one of its worst slumps in years.

International Weekend 9/4/16

Comscore for Weekend of 9/4/16
Weekend Cume
1. Star Trek Beyond $37.0M $131.1M
2. The Secret Life of Pets $17.3M $403.0M
3. Jason Bourne $12.0M $223.0M
4. Suicide Squad $11.8M $375.5M
5. Ice Age: Collision Course $8.2M $326.6M
6. Mechanic: Resurrection $7.6M $17.8M
7. Finding Dory $6.3M $461.4M
8. Lights Out $5.4M $70.2M
9. Don't Breathe $5.3M $8.6M
10. Ben-Hur $5.2M $29.7M

Chinese ticket sales rose 12 percent to $606 million (4.05 billion yuan) in August, compared with $543 million (3.62 billion yuan) in 2015, according to data from Beijing-based firm Entgroup.

From April to June, sales shrunk 5 percent — the Chinese box office's first full-quarter decline in over five years. In July, the downturn deepened, with revenue plunging 18 percent compared with the year prior.  

The biggest hit in August was Le Vision Pictures' fantasy adventure Time Raiders, starring Lu Han and Jing Boran. Based on a wildly popular series of young adult novels, the film was released Aug. 5 and has grossed $147.8 million — the most of any local release this summer. 

The Chinese exhibition market also got a lift from the release of more Hollywood films in August than usual.

After the disappointing overall performance of local pictures from April to June, Chinese regulators took the unprecedented step of loosening the usual blackout on foreign blockbusters. China's film authorities have traditionally kept imported competition out of the market during the peak moviegoing weeks of late summer, boosting local studios by giving Chinese titles uncontested room to perform. 

Last year's "domestic movie protection period," as the blackouts are sometimes called, ran June 19 to Aug. 23. But this year, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and The Legend of Tarzan were granted July dates, and The Secret Life of Pets came out on Aug. 2. Also, last year's blackout ended with the release of Terminator: Genisys on Aug. 23, whereas two Hollywood titles opened head-to-head on the same date this year — Universal's Jason Bourne and Fox's Ice Age: Collision Course.

So far, Bourne has earned $57.8 million in China, Collision Course has grossed $51.7 million and Pets has taken in $58.0 million. 

Paramount's Star Trek Beyond opens in China on Friday, followed by Sony's breakout horror hit The Shallows on Sept. 9.