China Box Office on Track to Reach $4.6 Billion in 2014

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"

The year's strong performance so far indicates a 28 percent rise in theater revenues, says research group.

The Chinese box office is on track to grow to a staggering $4.6 billion this year, according to forecasts by the research group Entgroup, which puts revenues in the world's second biggest market (at 42 percent) of those in North America.

The tantalizing prospect underlines why Hollywood is so keen to break into the rapidly expanding Chinese market, both for Hollywood movies but also as a possible co-production venue.

Last year, China's box office takings were $3.6 billion, which is around one-third of the North American total in the same period. China is expected to overtake North America as the world's biggest box office market in the next few years.

Box office revenues were expected to hit $520 million in February, which means that the total gross for a single month in China is now almost as high as the full year in 2007. Box office revenues were higher in February than in all of 2006.

According to a report by Entgroup analyst Ou Yi, box office in the full year will continue to grow to 28.2 billion yuan ($4.6 billion) in the full-year, about 42 percent of North American takings last year of $10.92 billion.

Entgroup estimates that Chinese box office is a little more than 10 percent of the global box office market, while North America accounts for around one-third.

The Entgroup prognosis is based on a number of big movies being released this year.

Major domestic releases include Jiang Wen's Gone With the Bullets, the sequel to the blockbuster Let the Bullets Fly; John Woo's The Crossing; Zhang Yimou's latest, Coming Home; Overheard 3 and the latest from Chen Kaige.

From Hollywood, already The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has done well at Chinese theaters, racking up a cool $33 million in its first three days, while the next installments in the Avengers, Transformers, Spider-Man, X-Men and Expendables franchises are also expected to do well in China.

Entgroup said that these films will push the growth in the market, as well as additional input from the rapidly expanding markets in second- and third-tier cities.