China Box Office Surges 35 Percent to $2.7 Billion in First Nine Months of 2013

The figure is close to the full-year 2012 total of $2.8 billion as local Chinese films made big gains, but Hollywood and other imported fare fell 5.2 percent.

China's box-office take was $2.7 billion (16.43 billion yuan) in the first nine months of 2013, a muscular 35 percent hike over the same three quarters last year, with domestic movies racking up a powerful display in the time period.

The figure of $2.7 billion is close to last year's total for the whole year, when the industry took $2.8 billion, according to data from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, carried on the official Xinhua News Agency.

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The data underline why China has become so important for Hollywood, and why U.S. film execs are actively wooing the market. While the figures give a lift to domestic movies, they paint a less rosy picture for foreign films in the world's second-largest market.

Broken down, the figures show that domestic movies took $1.57 billion (9.56 billion yuan) in the period, up 94 percent on the previous year, while box office from overseas movies fell 5.2 percent to $1.13 billion (6.86 billion yuan). Half of the top 10 titles were domestic movies, the SARFT results show.

The highest-grossing movie this year so far is Stephen Chow's interpretation of Journey to the West, which pulled in $200 million, followed by Iron Man 3, actress-turned-director Vicki Zhao's directorial debut So Young and Pacific Rim.

In another light, signs of an expanding market share for Chinese movies could be viewed as good news for Hollywood, as it eases Chinese government fears that foreign content will overwhelm domestic movies if import controls are relaxed further.

There are still around 10 new screens coming online every day in China, and the demand for content continues to grow.