Although the domestic box office continues to struggle, movie ticket sales in China are booming.
Nearly final government figures in the world's most populous nation show receipts probably will grow more than 30% in 2011 and, for the first time, exceed $2 billion.
That probably will make China the world's third-biggest movie market, behind only the U.S. and Japan.
Although some other nations are growing fast — Brazil, for example, is up 14% this year, according to Rentrak Corp. — none can match the surge in China, which is being driven by construction of theaters and increased attention from Hollywood studios.
The year's most popular movies in China were all U.S. productions and, just like in the U.S., Chinese moviegoers craved sequels.
The highest-grossing film of 2011 was "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," the third installment in the popular action franchise, which raked in about $170 million, according to the Chinese entertainment research center EntGroup.
"Kung Fu Panda 2" followed with $94 million, while the fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" film sailed off with $71 million.
The most successful Chinese movie was "Beginning of the Great Revival," a film about the origins of the Communist Party, at $63 million.
China's submission for the foreign-language Oscar, "Flowers of War," starring Christian Bale, has grossed about $56 million since its release in mid-December.