At the rate things are going, China may be the world’s biggest movie market just five years from now. By Wednesday, Chinese movie theaters had taken in 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) since the beginning of the year. Last year it took a month longer -- until June 19 -- to reach the same mark, according to M1905, the website for state-owned broadcaster CCTV6.
The country’s box-office grosses in 2013 hit $3.6 billion, and 2014 is headed for a take of $5 billion, according to the Hollywood Reporter. (Deadline estimates a slightly more modest $4.5 billion.) To meet growing demand, China added over 5,000 screens in 2013 alone, Variety reports.
The U.S. box office, by comparison, is expanding at a significantly smaller pace, hovering at $10.9 billion in 2012 and 2013, up slightly from 2011’s $10.1 billion.
China isn’t just an audience for film, it’s also a hugely profitable producer. Twenty-four movies made more than 100 million yuan ($16 million) in China this year, and only half of them were American-made.
The biggest box-office success in China this year was “The Monkey King,” a homegrown fantasy epic shot in 3D that took in $167 million after its January release. Starring Chow Yun-Fat, the movie was produced by Mandarin FIlms and China Film Group, companies that aren’t familiar to American audiences -- yet. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” came in second with $116 million, and Chinese reality-TV adaptation “Dad, Where Are We Going?” brought in $111 million for third place.
“Godzilla,” one of the biggest U.S. releases of the summer, may underperform in China due to recent tensions between China and Godzilla’s country of origin, Japan. Other upcoming American movies -- “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” -- are likely to do well in China this summer.
In the fall we’ll see a test of how Chinese movies fare in America. “The Monkey King” was successful enough across Asian markets to earn a U.S. release set for September, distributed by the small New Jersey-based Global Star Productions.
It might take some time for Chinese films to gain as strong a foothold in the U.S. as American films have internationally, but it probably won’t be long before one of the top 10 films in America is a blockbuster from Beijing.