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Film industry in China - statistics & facts

For the second year in a row, China retained its title as the world’s largest film market, overtaking North America with 47 billion yuan (7.4 billion U.S. dollars) of box office revenue. While film production and cinema operation around the world have been experiencing massive disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, movie theaters began to reopen in China from July 2020. Even before the emergence of the pandemic, China had been neck and neck with Hollywood, collecting over nine billion U.S. dollars in box office. In terms of production, the country is only second to India’s Bollywood, and is eager to make Chinese blockbuster hits. Given a rising living standard and a massive demand for entertainment, Chinese moviegoers will become more significant for the global film industry. Specialists also predict China will gain an even greater share of the global box office in the aftermath of the pandemic.

A remarkable cinematic odyssey

Over the past decade, both movie theaters and cinema screens experienced exponential growth. Currently, there are about 12,000 movie theaters with an average of 6.8 cinema screens. Among the 50 cinema chains across the country, Dadi Digital, China Digifilm, and China Film Southern operated the most theaters. However, Wanda Cinema Line ranked first in terms of box office revenue. Since 2015, the ticket sales volume in all cinema chains has exceeded 1.2 billion, a number that had been growing steadily before the pandemic. While the ticket sales volume is relatively high, Chinese filmgoers are accustomed to low ticket prices, which makes the average price of seeing a film in China much lower in comparison to the U.S. market. It suffices to say that there is still plenty of room to grow in this dragon market.

Big challenges to hold appeal

Hollywood studios are eager to grab a slice of China's fast-growing box office market, but it has become increasingly difficult for foreign titles to expand their market share in China. The government is highly protective of domestic industries and the film industry is no different. Only a small number of slots for the distribution of foreign films are permitted and a renewed interest in homegrown movies is further strengthening the domestic market. Furthermore, the Chinese Communist Party has shown particular interest in the film industry in 2021 as Beijing has released the directive to promote movies celebrating the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.

In fact, Chinese filmmakers have enhanced their competitiveness, content quality, and variety. Many latest releases have been well-received among Chinese movie fans and generated over 100 million yuan in the box office. In 2020, the war film 'The Eight Hundred' and the comedy drama 'My People, My Homeland' grossed about three billion yuan each. In comparison with pre-pandemic releases in 2019, the animation film 'Ne Zha' and the sci-fi movie 'The Wandering Earth' clocked in around five billion yuan of movie ticket sales respectively. It comes as no surprise that the appeal of domestic productions stayed strong in 2021 with 'The Battle at Lake Changjin' being a major blockbuster in that year. The historical war film raked in almost 5.8 billion yuan of revenue, breaking the record set by ‘Wolf Warriors 2’ in 2017. Aiming to achieve international success, more funding has been invested in the Chinese film industry. With production costs over 100 million U.S. dollars, yet the two Chinese blockbusters in 2018, Monster Hunt 2 and Asura, struggled to find footing in the global marketplace.


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