Chinese movie market aims to become No. 1

During the month of February, the box office revenue in China outgrossed that of North America for the first time. Will China become the biggest market for movies?

FilmRise/Edko Films Ltd./AP
A scene from 'Monster Hunt,' one of the top 10 highest-grossing films in China in 2015.

The power of the Chinese moviegoer continues to grow. During the month of February, the box office revenue in China outgrossed that of North America for the first time. 

The achievement comes as the international box office has become increasingly important to Hollywood over the past several years. Remember the 2012 remake of “Red Dawn”? In the new version, the invaders were digitally changed from Chinese to North Korean during post-production to appease Chinese audiences. In addition, more movie theaters are being built in China, and experts are predicting the Chinese movie market could completely outpace North America’s by 2017.

So what happened in February? Before you think Hollywood is about to lay down a walk of fame in Beijing, there are some cultural differences to consider. Aynne Kokas, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia who specializes in Chinese media, points out that the comparison is not a perfect one because February includes the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday when more people are going to the movies in China, not unlike December in North America.

In addition, one hit film played a big part in China’s record turnout. The Chinese film “The Mermaid,” released on Feb. 8, is now the highest-grossing movie ever in China.

An interesting movie to watch going forward, however, says Ms. Kokas, will be the upcoming film “The Great Wall,” from Chinese director Zhang Yimou and featuring big-name Hollywood actors (Matt Damon, Willem Dafoe) alongside successful Chinese actors (Andy Lau, Tian Jing). “The Great Wall” is scheduled for an early 2017 release by Legendary Entertainment, which was recently purchased by Chinese company Dalian Wanda Group. 

These new developments on the cinema landscape show that we can expect more Hollywood and China partnerships to come.

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