On Screen China: Booming Box Office Ends 2015 Up 48.7%

Detective Chinatown milk tea available via Taoabao—Photo courtesy Detective Chinatown official Weibo

Detective Chinatown milk tea available via Taobao—Photo courtesy Detective Chinatown official Weibo

In 2015, China’s booming box office grew an incredible 48.7% to reach a record $6.8 billion (RMB 44.07 billion) according to a statement released late Thursday by SARFT (State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television).

The yearly growth was the second highest since China’s modern film industry began to develop in 2004, second only to 2010 which saw a 64% jump in box office revenue.

Other staggering statistics from SARFT’s report:

  • Domestic films accounted for 61.6% of the 2015 annual box office, an increase of 68% over 2014’s local language output.
  • In 2015, 81 total films grossed more than RMB 100 million ($15.4 million) — 66 films hit that mark in 2014.
  • Annual admissions reached 1.26 billion, 51% more than 2014, the largest yearly increase in cinema visits in Chinese box office history.
  • In 2015, 1,200 new cinemas were built with 8,035 screens, an average of 22 new screens per day.
  • Chinese-language films grossed RMB 2.77 billion ($427 million) overseas in 2015, a 48% increase from 2014.

As the Chinese box office bids farewell to another record breaking year, four new films enter cinemas for the official New Year’s holiday. The only release with breakout box office potential is director Chen Sicheng’s comedy/suspense hybrid Detective Chinatown.

Detective Chinatown (唐人街探案)

China Distribution: Wuzhou Film Distribution Co. (五洲电影发行有限公司)
U.S. Distribution: China Lion Film

Local language comedies thrived at the Chinese box office in 2015 with three—Lost in Hong Kong, Goodbye Mr. Loser, and Jianbing Man—sitting in the top 10 this year. Word of mouth tends to travel fastest with comedies, seeping down into the all-important third- and fourth-tier cities at speeds that can either destroy box office prospects (Hollywood Adventures, Surprise) or bolster them. Early reviews from preview screenings point to a positive start for Detective Chinatown.

According to early estimates, Detective Chinatown scored a first-place $14 million opening day on Thursday and will look to carry that momentum into the holiday weekend against holdovers Mr. Six and Mojin—The Lost Legend.

—Follow Jonathan Papish on Twitter @ChinaBoxOffice