Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid earned twice as much as its nearest competitor, winning not just 2016, but also becoming China’s all-time box office champion.
A February film was the high point for China’s 2016 box office, with Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid outswimming Disney’s Zootopia and two other Hollywood films to emerge as the year’s winner.
The Hong Kong actor and director’s marine-themed comedy not only won the year, but became China’s all-time box office champion along the way, with a total take of almost RMB 3.4 billion (US$551 million), more than double its closest rival, Zootopia, which led a bumper crop not only of Disney films, but of animated movies in general.
Zootopia pulled in RMB 1.53 billion, followed by Legendary’s North American flop but China success Warcraft, which grabbed RMB 1.472 billion, due in part to the massive popularity of the online role-playing game in China. That monster movie was followed by Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, once again demonstrating the Chinese appetite for Hollywood superhero fare. The top five were rounded out with Aaron Kwok’s turn as a 150-pound gorilla in The Monkey King 2, with RMB 1.2 billion.
Altogether, the total box office take was RMB 45.71 billion ($6.6 billion), up 3.7 percent over 2015, but considered a disappointment after years of double-digit growth. A total of 10 films reached RMB 1 billion or higher, including the aforementioned three Hollywood pictures.
The box office total also reflected 40 foreign films that were imported on a revenue-sharing basis, six more than are officially permitted, the result of a relaxation of import policies that sought to boost cinema earnings. However, of the six additional films, only Mel Gibson’s World War II story Hacksaw Ridge found any real success, earning RMB 373 million ($53.7 million).
China ended the year with the world’s largest number of cinema screens, squeaking past the United States with just over 41,000 screens.