After leading the global box office in 2020 and 2021, China gave back its crown to the U.S. in 2022. After the first six months of 2022, North American grosses are at $3.7B while the Chinese market has dropped back to second place with $2.6B, a 38% drop from the same six-month period last year.
Many factors have combined to produce this change, with the top two global markets headed in different directions. As vaccines rolled out in the U.S., the public became much less concerned over the potential health risks of going to the movies. Studios returned to their tradition of opening major new films in theatres exclusively. Now the North American box office in 2022 has grown to more than 300% of the figures earned at this point last year.
By contrast, China is still mired in waves of theatre closures, impacting some of the country’s largest markets such as Shanghai and Shenzhen. The Chinese government points to its “Zero COVID” policy has saved many lives, especially during COVID’s early waves in 2020 and 2021, but in 2022 it is killing the local box office.
Another factor in Hollywood’s resurgence this year has been the interest of global audiences in American movies. While a Chinese blockbuster can do very well at home, in a country with more people and movie theatre screens than anywhere else in the world, interest in Chinese films has not yet been translated abroad. An obvious illustration is THE BATTLE AT LAKE CHANGJIN II, which has a higher gross in China than TOP GUN: MAVERICK does in the U.S. However, TOP GUN 2 has outperformed CHANGJIN II globally by a wide margin, earning more than $550M outside the U.S. compared to CHANGJIN’s $1M outside China.