During the last two years, China has cemented its position as the leading market in the global box office. After a 10+ year building boom, China now has over 75,000 movie theatre screens, double the number that exist in the U.S. During the pandemic, China also eclipsed the U.S. with the world’s largest box office grosses, though it has recently fallen back into second place as the U.S. box office has shown signs of a general recovery.
In terms of film product, China used to rely on Hollywood movies as its biggest earners, but that too has now changed, with local productions scoring the best box office results. The war epic THE BATTLE OF LAKE CHANGJIN is now in theatres and breaking records, with a projected gross of over $830M, higher than any Hollywood title released in the last 18 months. Other local productions have done almost as well, with titles such as HI MOM, DETECTIVE CHINATOWN 3 and THE WANDERING EARTH taking in huge grosses from the Chinese domestic market.
This is in contrast with major Hollywood films, which rely on returns from international markets to achieve profitability. Hollywood has reason to feel optimistic about success in the short term, with NO TIME TO DIE and DUNE set to release in the weeks ahead in China. However, the longer term outlook is clouded, with politics playing an increasingly important role. Major titles including MULAN, SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY and SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS have all run afoul of local authorities and audiences, when directors, stars or plotlines were judged to be offending national pride.