Chinese mainland box office sees great gains in 2017, paving way for more foreign films from outside Hollywood

By Wei Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/1 19:38:40

Chinese mainland box office sees great gains in 2017

Photo: IC

Photo: VCG

Photos: VCG/IC


The Chinese mainland box office continued to grow in 2017 to reach a total of 55.91 billion yuan ($8.59 billion), a 13.45 percent year-on-year increase, according to data from China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. 

Chinese films accounted for 53.84 percent of this total by bringing in 30.10 billion yuan at the Chinese box office. A total of 86 films made over 100 million yuan in the Chinese mainland, among which 46 were Chinese productions. Narrowing the scope even further, 12 Chinese films made over 500 million yuan, while 19 imported films fell into this category. 

Hands down, the biggest success of the year was the breakout success of Chinese director/actor Wu Jing's Wolf Warrior II. Its final box-office take of 5.67 billion yuan not only made it the highest-earning film in China ever, but also the second highest-grossing film in a single market; only beaten by The Force Awaken's $936.6 million total in North America. The Chinese military action film also became the first non-Hollywood film to enter the list of the 100 highest-earning films worldwide.

"[Wolf Warrior II] demonstrated the Chinese film market's great potential," Yin Hong, executive vice-president of the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times.

While Yin noted that Wolf Warrior II's success was something to cheer, he warned that it shouldn't distract from the fact that without the film the overall performance of big budget Chinese films as a whole would have been lackluster.

A surprising change for 2017 was the warm reception many non-Hollywood imported films received, notably India's Dangal (1.29 billion yuan) and Thailand's Bad Genius (271 million yuan). Dangal was also the only non-Hollywood that entered the top 10 most grossed imported film in China.

Yin emphasized that with these films earning more in China than in their home markets, this is sure to cause filmmakers from outside Hollywood to pay more attention to the Chinese film market.

For instance, Aamir Khan's new film Secret Superstar is now scheduled for release in the Chinese mainland on January 19, only three months behind its Indian release, while previous Indian films usually opened in China almost half a year after their home releases.

Mu Yi, a Chinese film critic and producer, noted that "Hollywood blockbusters will face fiercer competition not only from Chinese films but also quality films from other nations in the Chinese market in the future."

Outside the domestic film market, Chinese films' performance in foreign theaters also reached new highs by earning a total of 4.25 billion yuan overseas in 2017, up from 2016's 3.82 billion yuan.

Commenting on this improvement, film critic and opinion leader Tan Fei, said that this was most likely the result of China's rising soft power.

As to the cold reception Wolf Warrior II had overseas, Tan said that it most likely will take time for global audiences to accept a Chinese action hero who is overwhelmingly patriotic.

Government support is sure to have played an important role in the growth of Chinese films both inside and outside China. 

For example, on March 16, shortly after the Film Industry Promotion Law went into effect, the Film Business Development Special Fund Organizing Committee Office began offering a bonus to any Chinese film that earned more than 1 million yuan in total overseas.

Newspaper headline: Still growing

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