China passes US at movie box office

By Bian Jibu in New York ( China Daily USA ) Updated: 2015-03-03 12:08:15

In 2014, box-office returns in China surged 36 percent, Zhang Hongsen, head of the film bureau under the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, told the Xinhua news agency.

Last year's returns in the US were down more than 5 percent, to an estimated $10.35 billion, compared with $10.92 billion in 2013, according to tracking firm Rentrak, and no movie made more than $350 million from theaters in the US and Canada for the first time since 2007.

China's box office was boosted by strong growth in the number of theaters and screens. China added 1,015 cinemas and 5,397 screens last year, bringing the total number of screens to 23,600. "On average, 15 more screens were added each day," Zhang said. A total of 618 Chinese films were produced in 2014, down from 638 in 2013.

More people went to see movies than ever in 2014, with viewers making 830 million trips to the cinema, up 34.5 percent year-on-year, SAPPRFT said. Earnings of 66 films surpassed the locally symbolic 100 million yuan ($16.11 million) benchmark last year, including 36 domestic productions. In 2013, 60 films surpassed that figure.

Analysts are predicting that 2015 will be a banner year for US movie theaters because of a strong lineup of blockbuster films and solid early returns, the Wall Street Journal reported Feb 27. The three biggest movie chains in the US are Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc and Cinemark Holdings Inc.

Despite a box office downturn, AMC Entertainment, which is owned by China's Dalian Wanda Group Corp, reported on Feb 17 that fourth-quarter earnings beat Wall Street's expectations. AMC said earnings were 30 cents a share, while revenue of $712.2 million was about in line with projections, according to Variety.

Analysts had projected earnings of 20 cents a share and sales of $712.1 million, according to FactSet.

Net earnings for AMC came in at $29.8 million, a steep decline from the $279.6 million the company recorded during the same quarter in 2013. However, that was related to a one-time tax benefit of $265.6 million.

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