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China Box Office Ticket Revenue Slips 9 Percent in First Half of 2024

China Box Office Ticket Revenue Slips 9 Percent in First Half of 2024

China‘s movie box office made a roaring start to the year, but sales have waned in the months since. Ticket revenue for the first half of 2024 totaled $3.4B (RMB 23.9B), down 9 percent from last year, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway released Tuesday. Total admissions for the period reached 550 million, an 8.9 percent year-over-year decrease, as average movie ticket prices in the country — at $6.1 (RMB 43.4) — remained relatively stable compared to the past three years.

China’s theatrical market began the year with enviable strength, as ticket sales set a new record during the traditional Lunar New Year holiday in February, racking up a record $1.1 billion (RMB 8.1 billion) in revenue. But that eight-day stretch came to represent a whopping 33.9 percent of the full first-half haul.

Sales revenue has gone especially soft in the first month of summer, a period once dominated by imported Hollywood movies (Beijing’s film regulators block U.S. titles from release over the more lucrative later weeks of summer when local schools and universities are on break). June concluded with just $314.1M (RMB 2.2B) in ticket sales, a 46 percent decrease, marking the lowest month of 2024 to date.

The biggest blockbusters this year have all been local titles, continuing a trend among Chinese filmgoers of diminished interest in imported filmmaking — especially U.S. content. China Film Co. and Alibaba Picture’s comedy-drama Yolo is far and away 2024’s biggest hit, thus far. Directed, co-written by and starring Jia Ling, the film earned 3.46 billion yuan ($492 million) during Chinese New Year. The aspirational blockbuster tells the story of a down-and-out, overweight woman living with her parents, who meets a boxing coach who gets her into shape and helps her change her life. Blogger turned blockbuster director Han Han’s car racing comedy Pegasus 2 came in second for the period with $482 million (RMB 3.39 billion).

Hollywood hits, meanwhile, have been far smaller and sparser. Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros.’ Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire ranked as the biggest import and the sixth biggest film overall during the period with $134.7 million (RMB 956.4M), followed by Japanese anime legend Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Herson with $111.4 million (RMB 790.8M). Hollywood’s second and third biggest releases were DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 4 ($52.5 million, RMB 372.6 million) and Legendary’s Dune: Part Two ($49.7M, RMB 352.6M).

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Local industry watchers are hopeful for an overall market rebound. The second half of the year is stacked with highly anticipated local tentpoles, such as Chen Sicheng’s Spy Thriller Decoded and Peter Chan’s She’s Got No Name, starring Zhang Ziyi. The U.S. industry’s greatest hope of a breakthrough, meanwhile, is undoubtedly Disney and Marvel’s Deadpool & Wolverine, which opens on July 26. Can the Merc with a Mouth deliver some of the blockbuster riches that were once de rigeur for the Marvel franchise in the Middle Kingdom? If he can’t, it’s unlikely any other American movie this year will.

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