Film-going zeal during holiday shows hope for annual box office

2017-10-09 05:58:15 GMT2017-10-09 13:58:15(Beijing Time) Agencies

Chinese people spent more at the movies during the eight-day national holiday this year than ever before, with box offices reaping 70 percent more in income compared to the same period last year, possibly a sign that the nation's film market is gradually recovering from a lack-luster 2016.

Moviegoers spent 2.6 billion yuan (390 million U.S. dollars) during the "golden week," soaring above the 1.6 billion yuan earned during the holiday in 2016, according to box office tracker Maoyan. It broke the record for earnings during the week-long span, which was 1.85 billion in 2015.

Local comedies this year have been pulling the bulk of the weight, with Never Say Die, a boxing-themed body swap flick, contributing nearly 1.4 billion to the total. Tickets to action films Chasing the Dragon and The Foreigner made up most of the remainder 1.2 billion in earnings.

This summer's blockbuster action film Wolf Warrior 2 broke all-time records, bringing in around 5.7 billion yuan – a figure almost double the revenues of the previous box office champion held by fantasy film The Mermaid in 2016.

A stronger performance during "golden week"– the second-highest grossing week after the week-long Chinese Lunar New Year – coupled with overperforming titles, could help this year's box office rebound, ending an insipid mood in the market which prevailed last year.

A decade-long streak of double-digit film industry growth ground to a stand-still last year at 45.5 billion yuan, with a mere 3 percent increase in the size of box office income.

Ticketing receipts totaled 27.2 billion for the first six months of 2017, a figure that did not include Wolf Warrior's 5.7 billion earnings as well as other decently performing films during the summer season, such as the fifth film the Transformers franchise. The total box office as of the end of the national holiday on Sunday nears 45 billion yuan, according to estimates by CGTN.

Three months remain to see just how much better China's film market can do compared to the previous year, with few anticipated titles set for release later this year: The sequel to Kingsman, a film widely enjoyed by audiences in 2015; Marvel's superhero film Thor: Ragnarox; and Upon Fallen Wings, a homegrown crime movie based on novel with a huge domestic following.

Despite the assurance that the film market will pick up this year, the nation may still be years away from overtaking the U.S. as the nation with the largest box office, at 11.4 billion dollars last year.

Though expansion is guaranteed, the pace of its rise will be heavily damped as picker and audiences discriminate against slap-dash productions and head to cinemas only for films they deem deserving of their time and money.

An annual growth rate of 30-40 percent as seen in earlier years will also become a thing of the past, as film distribution companies become more fastidious in striking "minimal distribution" agreements with theaters. This refers to a previously common practice of buying tickets in bulk to boost word of mouth and allowing parties to wager on revenues, which led to fake screenings and inflated figures.

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