China Box Office Surges by Annual 83% in 2023 to .73 Billion

China Box Office Surges by Annual 83% in 2023 to $7.73 Billion

Movies, News

Chinese-produced movies took all of the top ten chart places at the China box office as theatrical revenues in 2023 rebounded strongly. Gross revenues reached an annual total of RMB54.9 billion or $7.73 billion.

That was an 83% improvement on the previous year, according to data from China Film Administration, but still 14.5% adrift of 2019, the last pre-COVID year, when grosses hit RMB64.3 billion. The government body also said that 2023 was the fourth highest box office figure on record.

Comparisons with 2022 are less meaningful than in many other countries as China suffered the worst of the pandemic in that year and cinemas were subject to eight months of rolling closures and capacity restrictions. In 2020 and 2021, when much of the world was laboring under COVID restrictions, but China was operating largely normally, the Middle Kingdom was the biggest movie market on the planet.

Local ticketing firm Maoyan reported that the number of admissions in 2023 was the highest in four years, at 1.3 billion. That is fractionally below one cinema visit per person in the massive country.

Although the market was largely re-opened to imported titles, Chinese-made films accounted for an 84% share of the total box office market, according to consultancy firm Artisan Gateway. Imports accounted for 16%. The proportions were little changed from the more restricted 2022.

“Fast X,” with RMB985 million or $139 million, was the top-scoring imported movie. It was followed in that category by two Japanese animation titles “Suzume” (with $114 million) and “The First Slam Dunk” ($93 million).

Two locally-produced films released at Chinese New Year, “Full River Red” and “The Wandering Earth 2,” headed the annual chart and exceeded the RMB4 billion ($560 million) landmark.

Maoyan said that recovery in 2023 was propelled by expansion of cinema operations into smaller towns and cities and rural areas, a growing trend of parent-child moviegoing, and changing demographics, notably an expanded female audience aged 25 and above.

The health of the cinema exhibition sector remains in some question. China Film Administration reports that the country had 86,300 cinema screens in operation at the end of 2023. That compares with 69,800 in 2019, when box office was higher. Per screen average revenues, then have dropped from a mean RMB921,000 ($129,000) per year to RMB63,600 ($89,000).

“The [Chinese] film market experienced changes in terms of content, audience, and promotion. Diversified films were welcomed by the market, with hits in the genres of history, sci-fi and fantasy. Young audiences sought new content and new topics. Male audiences were the main audience for imported animation films, while female audiences tended to choose parent-child animation and films focusing on women’s issues. Young audiences were more inclined to pay for films with creative settings and novel topics,” said Maoyan.

The agency also underlined the market’s growing seasonality and event-driven performance. “The demand for family [films] exploded during holidays and festivals, which was much higher than the average. In 2023, the summer season box office was the strongest in history, contributing nearly 40% of the year’s box office, while the Spring Festival holidays box office ranked second with a 12.3% contribution,” it said.

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