Imported and local titles shared the bounty as China’s box office grew by 14% in local currency terms in 2017. In U.S. dollar terms the gain was increased to 30%, and shows China continuing as the main prop of global box office expansion.
Data published on New Year’s Day by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television showed gross box office in China expanding from RMB 45.7 billion in 2016 to RMB55.9 billion in 2017. Using year end currency conversion rates ($1 = RMB 6.94 on Jan. 1,2017 and RMB6.50 on Jan. 1, 2018) China’s box office was $6.59 billion in 2016 and fully $2 billion higher in 2017 at $8.60 billion.
A complicating factor making direct comparisons less straightforward was the inclusion in the 2017 data of fees charged by online ticket sellers as part of the gross figure. Stripping these out reduces the like-for-like gain by some four or five percentage points. Nevertheless China provided the planet with a box office growth figure that it would have otherwise lacked.
U.S.-based date service ComScore Sunday showed that the planet-wide box office increased by $1.1 billion in 2017 to $$39.9 billion. Within that total, North American theatrical revenues dipped fractionally to $11.12 billion in 2017, and international grew by $1.4 billion to $28.8 billion. Without the Chinese contribution, both the international and the overall performances would have been negative.
Within China, local films ground out a win thanks to the stellar performance of films including “Wolf Warriors II,” which earned over $860 million. Market share for Chinese-language movies and Chinese co-productions was 53.8%, down from 58% in 2016 and 61% in 2015. Beginning this month, the Chinese government will offer financial incentives to theaters which increase the performance of local titles.
In cash terms revenues for local films increased from RMB26.7 billion in 2016 to RMB30.1 billion in 2017. For international films the increase was higher, with revenues jumping from RMB19 billion to RMB25.8 billion. The strengthening of the Chinese currency against the dollar made those gains still more valuable to Hollywood.
Another pointer to the performance of the Chinese theatrical market was the growth of ticket sales. These increased by 18% from 1.37 billion in 2016 to 1.62 billion in 2017. That means theatrical movie consumption in China in China is now higher than one ticker per person per year, for the first time in the modern era.
The ticket data, however, also point to two other weaker trends: continuing ticket price deflation, as the mean price is brought down by cinema building in smaller towns and cities that are less wealthy than the major metropolises; and declining revenues per screen. The SAPPRFT data shows the number of screens in operation increased by 23% from 41,179 at the end of 2016, rising to 50,776 at the end of 2017.
The agency also reports that overseas box office of Chinese films and co-production increased by 11% to RMB4.25 billion ($653 million).