Watch out Hollywood: the Chinese box office is closing in on North America as the most lucrative territory in the movie industry. The Chinese movie theater market grew 48.7 percent in 2015 to reach a record $6.78 billion (44 billion yuan) in box office revenue. Although the American box office reigned supreme this year with a record $11 billion in ticket sales, the tables may be turning. China is expected to become the largest movie market in the world by the end of 2017, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
It sounds like the huge Chinese box office jump isn’t helping Hollywood either, even if it did help to bring global ticket sales to a record $40 billion. That’s because Chinese films claimed nearly two-thirds (61.6 percent, up from 54.5 percent in 2014) of the country’s box office receipts. This is in part due to a continuing push by Chinese regulators to limit the accessibility of Hollywood films in the country. Only 34 foreign films are allowed in the Chinese cinema every year, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Regardless, three Hollywood films did reach the top 10 in China: Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Jurassic World.
China’s film industry has grown dramatically due to a rapidly expanding middle class and a boom in cineplex development (to the tune of more than 8,000 new screens in 2014). “There’s been a growth of exhibitor real estate in many parts of the world, particularly in China, and that has a major effect and indeed is the most influential factor,” said Universal Pictures exec Duncan Clark to the L.A. Times. “If you don’t have movie theaters in large towns, money’s just bleeding away from you in every release that occurs.”
As more and more Chinese consumers gain access to movie theaters, we can only assume that box office revenues will continue to spike in the country. Unless Chinese regulations change, however, those revenues won’t translate into mountains of money for Hollywood.