Chinese movie fans helped push worldwide cinema sales ahead 6 per cent to a record US$34.7 billion last year, as the world's most-populous nation passed Japan to become the No 2 film market.
Moviegoers in China increased their box-office spending by 36 per cent to US$2.7 billion last year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America, the Washington-based trade group, which released year-end statistics yesterday.
The growth puts China behind only the US and Canada, where fans increased spending by 6 per cent last year to a combined US$10.8 billion, according to the trade group. In Japan, previously the second-largest market, revenue rose 4.3 per cent to US$2.4 billion, the association said.
"China's building 10 screens a day," association chairman Christopher Dodd said. "There's a voracious appetite for product and our films have consistently done well."
Policy changes in China had increased the number of foreign films that could be released in the country, Dodd said. The former US senator also said he had shared his concerns with Chinese officials over rules that keep US films from being shown during "blackout" periods to help local productions.
"We've raised concerns about that to the highest authorities," Dodd said. "While it's vastly improved, there's always going to be bumps in the road."
Ticket revenue in Europe, the Middle East and Africa fell 1 per cent to US$10.7 billion, due to declines in France, Italy and Spain.
US and Canadian theatre attendance increased 6 per cent to 1.36 billion tickets, below the past decade's high of 1.52 billion in 2003. The average movie ticket price was stable at US$7.96. Revenue from 3-D films was unchanged at US$1.8 billion, although the number of such films released fell 20 per cent to 36.
The total number of films released rose 11 per cent to 677, led by a 17 per cent increase in independent pictures to 549. Movies released by the major Hollywood studios fell 9 per cent to 128.