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Avengers set to top box office in China

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-05-12 10:32

A new box-office champion is coming soon to China-and the world.

Avengers: Age of Ultron debuting in China on May 12, is poised to overtake Furious 7 as the Asian nation's top-grossing movie, based on pre-release bookings.

That is no small feat since the latest chapter in the car-themed series was almost 14 percent bigger at the Chinese box office than in the United States and Canada, with $385 million so far.

Avengers' reservations have doubled those in the run-up to Furious 7, according to the Shanghai-based ticketing agency

The superhero sequel would be the sixth film to exceed $200 million in China, data compiled by Bloomberg from EntGroup Inc and Box Office Mojo show.

"American audiences have diversified tastes and a lots of choices," said Peng Kan, an analyst in Beijing at Legend Media Co. "But Chinese favor Hollywood films because they deliver more action, surprises and better special effects."

China's potential has surged with a quadrupling of theater screens since 2010, to more than 24,300 at the end of 2014, versus 43,300 screens in the US, according to EntGroup and the Motion Picture Association of America's website.

Expansion, growing incomes and urbanization helped boost China's total box office by 34 percent last year to $4.8 billion. The US and Canada total fell 5 percent to $10.4 billion, according to MPAA.

That means Chinese revenue is getting close to half the US level, about doubling the proportion in 2012. China actually exceeded the US domestic box office in February, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, a breakthrough helped by bad weather in the US, while most Chinese had a weeklong holiday for Lunar New Year.

China at the top will not be a rarity soon. Bloomberg Intelligence forecasts it will become the world's biggest market in five years.

Wang Fenglin, deputy director of the China Film Producers' Association, told Xinhua News Agency in November that the handover will be in three years.

Zhang Xuejing, co-chief executive officer of, expects the Chinese box office this year to expand by about the same pace in 2014, to as much as $6.4 billion.

The Chinese market comes with limits, including a current cap of 34 foreign films that can be shown annually.

Those must be marketed through two State-owned companies, Huaxia Film Distribution Co or China Film Group Corp.

American Sniper, Fifty Shades of Grey and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water are among recent releases not shown in China.

Of the 10 biggest box-office earners in China, five were Hollywood imports.

The top locally produced films were Lost in Thailand, a comedy about a group of Chinese on vacation in 2012, and Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons in 2013.

Price is another limit. The average ticket in China was $5.79 last year, compared with $8.17 in the US and Canada. That means 41 percent more Chinese need to see a movie for the same revenue.

One area China has a clear advantage is population, with 1.36 billion people compared with 319 million in the US and 35 million in Canada.

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