China Box Office Slumps 18 Percent in July

'Cold War 2' Still - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Edko Films

The dramatic reversal of fortune in the world's second-largest film market has accelerated in the peak moviegoing months of summer.

China's theatrical box office shrunk 18 percent in the peak moviegoing month of July, continuing a dramatic slowdown in the world's second-largest film market.

Total box office revenue for the month was $679 million (4.51 billion yuan), down from $828.7 million (5.5 billion yuan) in July 2015, according to Beijing-based box office analyst Ent Group.

The decline continues a trend that began in the second quarter of this year, when the box office recorded a 4.6 percent fall — the Chinese theatrical market's first full-quarter slip in over half a decade.

Experts point to a confluence of forces causing the slump, including a weaker crop of local and imported films, fewer discounts on movie tickets, changing demographics in the market and a consumer slowdown in the broader Chinese economy (for a closer look at the Chinese box office slowdown, see this THR analysis).

The decline comes as surprising news to an international industry accustomed to the narrative of relentless growth out of China. In 2015, for example, the theatrical market expanded 54 percent in July, and total box office closed the year up an astonishing 48.7 percent.

This July's biggest hits were markedly smaller than 2015's. The top earners were Jackie Chan's Skiptrace ($132.52 million), Edko Films' Cold War 2 ($101.1 million) and animated feature Big Fish & Begonia ($84.9 million), compared to 2015's Monster Hunt ($381.9 million), Jian Bing Man ($186.4 million), Monkey King: Hero Is Back ($153 million).

Perhaps foreseeing trouble on the release calendar, Chinese regulators took the unprecedented step of letting a few Hollywood movies into the market in July, a period usually reserved exclusively for local productions. Paramount's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows opened July 2, and Warner Bros. The Legend of Tarzan bowed in China on July 19. Both films performed somewhat modestly, however, earning $58.9 million and $41.8 million, respectively.