China’s box office sales hit 17.07 billion yuan (2.74 billion U.S. dollars) in 2012, surging 30.18 percent year on year and making the country the world’s second-largest film market.
Chinese filmmakers produced 893 films last year, including 745 feature films and 33 animated films, according to data published Wednesday by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT).
“Now, China is the world’s third-largest film producer and second-biggest film market,” said Tong Gang, head of film bureau of the SARFT.
However, ticket sales for imported movies totaled 8.8 billion yuan, or 51.54 percent of gross ticket revenue, ending domestic films’ nine-year dominance at the box office.
Revenues of domestic films surpassed that of foreign films for the first time in 2003, when China initiated reforms to boost its fledgling film industry, and continued to do so through 2011.
“Though the domestic movies’ box office outcome was no match for that of imported movies, the 48.46 percent share still exceeds market expectations issued earlier this year following the signing of a new China-U.S. film agreement,” said Tong.
According to the agreement, China increased its annual import quota of Hollywood blockbusters from 20 to 34 and lifted their share of revenue from 17.5 percent to 25 percent.
As a result, 14 American films hit Chinese theaters in the first half of 2012. These came among 38 overseas films that raked in two-thirds of total ticket sales in the first six months of the year.
Despite this “severe situation,” many Chinese films such as “Painted Skin II,” “1942,” and “Lost in Thailand” were still box office successes, said Tong.
The top 20 domestic movies each saw ticket sales exceed 100 million yuan during their runs, a feat achieved by few Chinese movies just several years ago. Six movies took in more than 200 million yuan and three generated over 700 million yuan in ticket sales.
The low-budget comedy “Lost in Thailand,” which debuted on Dec. 12, took in an unprecedented 1.2 billion yuan in less than one month, out-earning “Avatar” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” to become the highest-grossing movie ever shown in Chinese theaters.
The strong box office performance of “Lost in Thailand” is also believed to have helped boost domestic films’ share of total ticket sales in 2012.