Domestic Vs Import Box Office: Appearances Can Deceive

Looking at the box office split between foreign and Chinese films this year, it’s easy to conclude China is a balanced market: imports lead slightly with a 52% market share through April 18. But huge imbalances lie behind those numbers.

Before February 10, thanks to unofficial blackout periods for the Western New Year and the Spring Festival, local Chinese productions account for a staggering 85% of the box office. Since then, however, starting with the February 10 release of xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, the script has flipped and Hollywood imports completely dominate. In fact, for 66 out of 67 days since xXx‘s release, imports have led the daily box office charts.

This imbalance isn’t anything new—regulators often block off holidays and the summer months for local releases while scheduling long streaks of Hollywood releases in-between.  But this year it is certainly more pronounced, and has become a matter of concern among industry observers who believe a healthy, robust film market should allow for diverse moviegoing choices. Indeed, China seems to be turning into a “one-weekend market” where moviegoers rush to see the next big release each weekend, and films that don’t perform are at risk of completely disappearing from screens by the following Friday.