China Box Office: Local Films Fuel First Quarter Surge of Nearly 30 Percent

Monkey business rules China box office in Q1

Chinese moviegoers have already spent more at the movies than they did during all of 2009.

The Chinese box office saw a hefty 29.3 percent rise during the first quarter of the year. Revenues reached $1.09 billion (6.786 billion yuan), the Film Bureau said in official data, and local films accounted for nearly two thirds of the take.

Domestic films notched $680 million (4.242 billion yuan) for a market share of 62.5 percent, with the big performer being the Chinese New Year holiday hits The Monkey King, which earned $170 million (1.045 billion yuan) and Enlight Media’s Reality TV adaptation Where Are We Going, Dad?, which took $112 million.

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Wong Jing's The Man From Macau, featuring Hong Kong legend Chow Yun-fat, made $84 million and Huayi Brothers’ Ex-Files, directed by Tian Yusheng took $21 million.

Foreign movies made up 37.5 percent of revenue at $410 million, with the biggest Hollywood performance in the first quarter coming from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which took $74.6 million, followed by Need for Speed with $60.4 million, Universal and Illumination Entertainment's Despicable Me 2 ($52 million), Sony and MGM's rebooted RoboCop ($50.7 million) and Frozen with $48.1 million.

Hollywood is likely to make a strong showing in the second-quarter, given that Captain America: The Winter Soldier has already made more $60 million in its first week here, and with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Transformers: Age of Extinction due to open in the second quarter.

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The data from the Film Bureau confirm estimates from the research group Entgroup earlier this week, which revealed that first quarter revenues for 2014 have already exceeded the country's full-year total for 2009.

The strong rise is likely to continue throughout the year. In the first quarter, there were 325 movie theaters built, for a total of 1,609 screens, which means an average of 18 new screens went up per day. There are currently 20,007 screens in China, compared to nearly 40,000 in the United States.