China’s Box Office Clout Grows in 2008

This news surprised me greatly, as I thought this wasn’t much of a year for the box office, with the Sichuan Earthquake and the Olympics, both of which turned people away from movie theaters. And oh yeah, there was that bad economy.

However in 2008, China’s box office saw an increase of 26% earning a total of 4.2 billion yuan or 617 million USD entering into the top 10 box offices revenues of the world for the first time. The box office for domestic Chinese movies increased 43% from 2007, and accounted for 61% of total revenue, a very healthy number. Of the 15 Chinese movies that have surpassed 100 million yuan so far in revenue, 8 were from in 2008.

This is probably due to higher ticket prices, and lots more theaters in China. At any rate, more money means better production values. And I’d like this trend continue and someday allow Chinese movies to achieve what I think is their true potential. Although SARFT needs to magically disappear for that to happen. Maybe those internet censors and them can duke it out until death. Still, it’s very encouraging and very promising.


7 thoughts on “China’s Box Office Clout Grows in 2008

  1. I don’t get why some are bashing ancient Chinese historical epics. No one complains when there’s a tidal wave of Manchu era dramas, or HK gangster flicks. Never heard anything negative about the Japanese churning out a steady stream of period samurai dramas, the S.Korean historical epic wave, or India’s endless Bollywood musicals.

    I want more ancient Chinese epics, but with focus on common people.

  2. China =/= Hong Kong =/= Taiwan. Their entertainment paths have been completely different for the most part, and they’ve only very recently begun to merge, but mostly China and Hong Kong. Taiwan is still kind of doing it own thing.

    China has really good scripts in my opinion, from its tv series to it movies. Some are draggy and imperfect, but they’ve alway been rather thought-out and I never felt any were slapped together. In fact, what it lacks may be a lot of that fun, big-star blockbuster quality, but I think they’ve been doing that more recently, while still maintaining the quality of the movie.

    Hong Kong is the only place I can think of that does that EEG/popstar crap, although I think it had stopped doing that lately, because it wants to cater to the bigger China market and China doesn’t really care so much about the pop stars, preferring their serious big name actors, like Chen Kun, Ge You, etc. The only recent example I can think of in HK where they did that is Butterfly Lovers, which bombed. Eventually I think Hong Kong is going to stop with the pop-star driven vehicles.

    So far, I think while HK has suffered some from trying to cater to a mainland Chinese audience, will in the end, be better for it.

    Taiwan, despite the vast amount of idols in their tv series, has so far not really had much a idol movie industry, but rather a serious, artsy one best embodied by Hou Hsiao Hsien whose slow-paced movies kill me. Thankfully, they’re starting to get more commercial as well, while still not allowing the untalented idol actors in their movies.

    All in all, I see a merging of the quality, but perhaps boring artsy films and the crass, fun movies in Chinese film. This may be optimistic assessment, but I see a lot of support for making that statement.

  3. I think one way for China to improve it’s movies is to place more importance on good scriptwriters.

    A lot of Chinese movies (well Hong Kong from my experience) will slap together a script and then hope to bank on the idol/pop-stars they cast.

  4. @Julie – Because America has the biggest box office, hands down and thus the market allows for a large variety of movies, and movies with the biggest budgets. If in America you can see movies of almost every type, and new releases each weekend why would you bother seeking out foreign ones?

    This is why it’s so important for the Chinese box office to grow. China has a lot of catching up to do, but unlike Japan (2nd largest BO)who has already hit its peak in box office potential, with almost zero pirating and a fairly homogeneous middle class, China actually has the potential to surpass the US in box office sales due to a greater populartion. I’m not sure if and when that will happen, but at least it has that potential, and then perhaps it would not just be America exporting across the globe in such a one-sided fashion.

    @Stranger – Well Chinese piracy has been rampant since the birth of the industry, unlike America, or South Korea so there was nowhere to go but up. The major driving for is the increase in theaters I think. Piracy won’t be eradicated for a long time, because it provides a lot of jobs for people, and that’s frankly more important to the Chinese government than entertainment quality.

    So far industry reports have not been bad for China despite the economy; most entertainment companies, tv stations don’t seem to have taken a large hit. But I’m still worried for 2009.

    I think China is diversifying however. Painted Skin was not really so much an ancient epic, as a love story, which got a lot of attention because of its cast.

    As for comedies, I thought this year was pretty good. Desires of the Heart was a fairly clever black romantic comedy. It was flawed, but still it was overall a good movie, and was fairly high quality, and was a success at the box office. In the beginning of 2009, HK will have All’s Well Ends Well, and China will have Gao Xing (Happiness) which from what I can tell, is a kind of bizarre musical comedy.

  5. Wow, that’s really promising, despite the economy and also piracy. What I would really like to see is more genres in Chinese movies, maybe more decent comedies or rom-coms.

    They seem to put a lot of spotlight on those epic, ancient movies like Painted Skin, which I do not mind, but it does get a bit dull to watch those after a while, as it’s filled with so much CGI and feels too surreal.

  6. julie: I’m American, and I watched several Mandarin films this year…and I listen to music in languages besides English and understand actually the lyrics decently. I’m not the only American like that, of course. Try sharing some Chinese movies with Americans and you might be surprised. Some of us do watch Chinese movies, though most don’t. That’s really a stereotype. I’m kind of annoyed by the weird stares I get when I don’t meet said stereotype. I went to a Chinese class in which none of the students was Asian and some of the other students watched dramas in Mandarin to help them learn the language.

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