The box office in mainland China reached an all-time high in the summer season, according to figures from ticketing agency Maoyan Entertainment. The record was achieved with minimal input from Hollywood.
Maoyan, which defines China’s cinematic summer as running from the beginning of June to the end of August, says that the previous record of RMB17.8 billion, set in 2018, was beaten on Thursday evening (local time) – some two weeks before the end of the current season.
China’s cinema-going rebound started with a jolt after mainland authorities abruptly dropped anti-COVID restrictions in mid-December 2022 allowing “Avatar: The Way of Water” to profit from a wave of revenge consumption. The late January to early February Chinese New Year period also delivered a record box office of about $1 billion, before the gravitational pull of China’s slowing economy flattened the recovery.
The summer season has witnessed a succession of locally-produced films across a span of different genres become major hits. These include: “Lost in the Stars” (mystery drama), “No More Bets” (crime-action), “Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms” (historical fantasy), “One and Only” (youth dance-drama), “Chang An” (animation), “Meg 2: The Trench” (English-language action adventure) and “Never Say Never” (uplifting martial arts drama).
Unusually, there has been no sign of the summer season blackout period that authorities have mandated in many previous years. These “Chinese film support months” have typically lasted for three to four weeks and seen revenue-sharing Hollywood movies prevented from receiving theatrical releases.
Instead, this year, Hollywood films have been imported with almost pre-pandemic frequency and received releases on an almost weekly basis throughout the June to mid-August period. Despite that, most Hollywood titles have underperformed in China this year.
The Hollywood films’ contribution to the summer box office record has therefore been modest — the strongest being “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” with $97 million and “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1” with $51 million. “Barbie” has defied initial skepticism and reached $36 million. (“Meg 2,” which was jointly produced by CMC Pictures and Warner Bros., is considered a local title in China and did not require an import license, has a running total of $104 million).
Maoyan, which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exhange, saw its January-June results lifted significantly by the rising box office and its expanding role beyond ticketing. On Thursday, Maoyan reported first half revenues that leaped by 84% year-on-year to RMB2.20 billion and net profits that increased by 166% to RMB405 million.
Maoyan was a co-producer on “Lost in the Stars” (RMB 3.52 billion), joint producer on “Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms” (RMB 2.19 billion), and co-producer on “Never Say Never” (RMB2.14 billion. (The company is also a distributor of “Papa,” which releases on Friday and which pre-sales suggest will open in the top position.)
Earlier this week, another data provider, Artisan Gateway, reported that China’s year to date box office total had reached $5.51 billion. The company said that is fully 72% ahead of the same point last year and just 6% behind the equivalent date in 2019.
- China Box Office Reaches All-Time Summer Record, With Minimal Help From Hollywood
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