In 1994, China announced it would allow in ten imported films per year that “basically reflected the finest global cultural achievements and represented the latest artistic and technological accomplishments in contemporary world cinema.”
On November 12 of that year, The Fugitive, directed by Andrew Davis and starring Harrison Ford opened in fifty-six movie theaters across six major Chinese cities. A runaway success, it singlehandedly ushered in the age of the Hollywood blockbuster in China with 1.4 million admissions nationwide and RMB 25.8 million ($3.15 million) in ticket sales.
In the years to come, the quota would increase— first to twenty when China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and then its current thirty-four after negotiations with the MPAA in 2012.
The chart above highlights the highest-grossing imported film per year during this era — from The Fugitive in 1994 to Zootopia in 2016, showing not only the scale of China’s growth as a market, but something of the tastes of Chinese moviegoers.
|Year||Title||Chinese Gross (millons of RMB)|
|1997||The Lost World: Jurassic Park||72.1|
|1999||Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace||33.94|
|2002||The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring||56.2|
|2003||Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets||52.2|
|2004||The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King||86.3|
|2005||Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire||94|
|2006||The Da Vinci Code||105|
|2008||Kung Fu Panda||182|
|2011||Transformers: Dark of the Moon||1,070|
|2014||Transformers: Age of Extinction||1,980|