China boxoffice admissions up 27% in 2008

Homegrown, H.K. and co-productions make up 60% of sales

BANGKOK -- China's boxoffice recorded a 27% annual jump in ticket sales in 2008, rising to 4.2 billion yuan ($622 million), up $130 million over 2007, according to data from the film bureau of the State Administration of Radio Film and Television.

Domestic or co-produced films accounted for 60% of ticket sales, or $376 million, despite what China Daily columnist Raymond Zhou recently said had been a year in which "mediocrity reigned supreme" and at least one Hollywood blockbuster ("The Dark Knight") was barred from competition.

Ticket sales also might have slowed as Chinese glued themselves to the television in May to follow the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake, and again in August as they celebrated the Beijing Olympics.

But theater construction boomed making tickets to the movies available to an ever growing population.

A record eight non-imported films earned more than 100 million yuan ($14.6 million), including John Woo's "Red Cliff," which took in $45.3 million on its own. The first film of a two-parter billed as the most expensive Asian film ever made, "Red Cliff" has earned about $102 million worldwide.

Other homemade, Hong Kong or co-produced top earners in the top eight were Stephen Chow's "CJ7," Chen Kaige's "Forever Enthralled," Feng Xiaogang's "If You Are the One," Chu Yenping's "Kung Fu Dunk," Gordon Chan's "Painted Skin" and, notably, Rob Minkoff's "The Forbidden Kingdom," starring Jet Li and Jackie Chan, a Casey Silver and Relativity Media co-production with the China Film Group and Huayi Brothers.

Together, the top eight non-imported films earned about $292 million.