China Box Office: Revenue Surges Past $3 Billion So Far in 2013, Local Movies Dominate

Bob Freeman for the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX
Feng Xiaogang's "Personal Tailor" opens this month.

With the Hollywood quota of movies already filled, it's cleared the way for domestic titles to have a strong run.

China's box-office revenues breached the $3 billion threshold late last month, hitting $3.17 billion (19.3 billion yuan) as of Nov. 25, with the prospect of another late boost as some big local movies screen before the year's end.

Chinese films have taken in $1.76 billion (10.7 billion yuan) so far in 2013, accounting for 55 percent of mainland box-office revenues, Tong Gang, deputy director of the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SGAPPRTV) said in a meeting with the China Film Association.

It's a stunning rise when you consider China's box-office sales in 2010 were around $1.64 billion and less than $164 million back in 2002.

With the quota of Hollywood movies already filled for the year, the way has been cleared for a box-office sweep by domestic movies. And it's already started.

Chinese movies were given a boost last weekend when Benny Chan's action thriller The White Storm collected $12.6 million in its opening three days, edging out Alfonso Cuaron's sci-fi epic Gravity, according to data from the research group Entgroup.

White Storm took $12.94 million over the weekend, compared to Gravity's $12.22 million. However, over the full week from Nov. 25 thru Dec. 1, Gravity had a bigger take, with the Sandra Bullock starrer earning $22.74 million over the seven-day period for a cume of $57.77 million in China so far. The movie has racked up 3.39 million admissions.

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The rapid surge in the Chinese film business was the result of reform in the film industry, said Yin Hong, professor at Tsinghua University, to the Xinhua news agency, with growth bankrolled by a major injection of private capital into the industry.

Central to this is the number of new theaters -- more than 4,500 screens have been built in China's cinemas in 2013, with the total number of screens across the country surpassing 17,600.

Three leading directors will premiere movies before the end of the year. Feng Xiaogang, one of China's most bankable directors, returns to comedy with the highly anticipated Personal Tailor on Dec. 19, while Hong Kong legend Jackie Chan will premiere the action blockbuster Police Story 2013 during the holiday season.

Director Ning Hao, who caused a stir with Crazy Stone a few years back but has been relatively quiet in the past couple of year, this week will present a Chinese-Western crime movie, No Man's Land, followed shortly by the Dec. 6 release of Hong Kong director Gordon Chan's martial arts movie, The Four 2.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire continued its strong performance during the week, with the Jennifer Lawrence blockbuster taking in $11.1 million, while Epic took $3.65 million in its opening three days.

The Huayi Brothers-produced Control made $3.26 million during the week, bringing its total to $6.8 million. The movie is a suspense thriller starring Chinese-American Daniel Wu, Hong Kong star Simon Yam and Taiwan's Leon Dai.

Thor: The Dark World took $2.13 million to take its cumulative total to $55.01 million in the country, while Escape Plan's cume has now reached $40.76 million after 28 days on screens, having taken another $1.78 million during the week.