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Chinese box office off to strong 2012 start

July 10, 2012|By John Horn
  • Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton in "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol," one of the most popular releases in China.
Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton in "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol,"… (David James / Paramount…)

It's the kind of growth reported by companies like Apple and Google, not by anyone in the film business. Yet in this instance the 41% gains are coming not from Silicon Valley but the world's fastest-rising movie market: China.

Halfway through 2012, Chinese box-office revenues have totaled more than $1.25 billion, with the final tally projected by blogger Robert Cain of chinafilmbiz to surpass $3 billion. That would represent a surge of about $1 billion from 2011's Chinese revenues of about $2.06 billion.

As has been the case for the last several years, Hollywood blockbusters are driving ticket sales in the world's most populous nation, according to figures from China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

The most popular imports this year are the 3-D release of "Titanic" ($154.8 million), "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" ($102.7 million) and "The Avengers" ($90.3 million). Even the local dud "Battleship" has performed well in China, grossing more than $50 million.

According to Cain, eight American productions already have surpassed $40 million in Chinese ticket sales this year, equal to the total for all of 2011. American movies account for 63% of China's grosses so far this year. The highest-grossing movie made entirely in China, as opposed to a China-Hong Kong co-production, is the animated "Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf," which has grossed $25.8 million in Chinese multiplexes.

Cain projects that China will pass the United States as the world's biggest movie market by 2020, if not sooner. The country recently relaxed the number of non-Chinese movies that can be shown in local theaters every year, but the government's distribution terms -- which give producers about 25% of ticket sales, rather than half as in the United States -- are still much harsher than any major market.

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