China's Box Office Jumps 61 Percent to Hit $1.47 Billion in 2010

Courtesy of China Film Group

China's box office grew by 61 percent in 2010, making it the third-largest box-office market in the world, behind Japan and the U.S.

BEIJING – China's box-office gross sales rose 61 percent in 2010 to $1.47 billion, boosted by Hollywood imports such as Avatar and local hits such as Aftershock, local media said Monday, citing a leading media regulator.

From January through December, China’s moviegoers bought tickets worth 10 billion yuan, up from the 6.2 billion yuan ($908 million) they spent on the movies in 2009, Wang Taihua, director of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, told China Daily.

Wang said China made 500 films in 2010, ranking the nation third behind Bollywood and Hollywood in terms of annual film output, according to a story in the state-run English-language newspaper. This was 100 films fewer than SARFT said were made in China in 2009.

Although much of the gain in China’s box office ticket sales came from Hollywood imports such as Avatar -- which grossed $204 million in China alone -- Wang said many Chinese-made films also had been commercial and critical successes, citing director Feng Xiaogang's film Aftershock as an example.

Aftershock – in which a mother and daughter rebuild their relationship 32 years after they were separated by the 1976 Tangshan earthquake – became China’s highest-grossing homegrown film of all time, raking in more than 660 million yuan.

China’s 2010 box office growth coincided with the addition of an average of three new theatrical screens each day, bringing the nation’s  total to 5,690 screens in about 1,800 cinemas, Wang said.

The first half of the year got off to a lightning fast start with gross box office sales up 86%, China Film Group data showed. Industry research showed that a disproportionate amount of that sales growth came from the premium paid for increasingly popular 3D screenings of Hollywood imports such as Avatar and Alice in Wonderland.

China’s screen count is far smaller than the 40,000 in nearly 6,000 cinemas that currently serve the U.S., where the population is less than a quarter as large, but 2010 annual gross box office revenue was projected to hit $11 billion – 7.5 times greater than China’s take.

Ranked No. 2 in the world, Japan’s annual 2010 box office gross was expected to be tallied at $2.5 billion. China’s media regulators expect China will overtake Japan in box office sales by 2015.