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China smashes world monthly box office record, as February takings top US$1.57 billion

Performance beats previous record held by North America in July 2011 when takings were recorded at US$1.395 billion. Action blockbuster Operation Red Sea, directed by Hong Kong director Dante Lam, plays key role in total tally

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 March, 2018, 5:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 March, 2018, 11:12pm

China set a global monthly box office record in February after topping 10 billion yuan (US$1.57 billion) for the first time, eclipsing North America’s previous high in July 2011, when the final Harry Potter and Transformer films boosted ticket sales to US$1.395 billion.

The final domestic tally was 10.05 billion yuan, official figures showed on Thursday, thanks to several blockbusters that included action hit Operation Red Sea, directed by Hong Kong director Dante Lam.

The film – produced to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the 19th Communist Party’s National Congress – features Chinese Navy elites thwarting a terrorist plot overseas and saving hundreds of Chinese citizens and foreign nationals during the 2015 Yemen Civil War.

The film has topped China’s box office over the past week and contributed 2.44 billion yuan to February’s total ticket sales.

“This is mainly due to explosive growth during the Spring Festival holiday,” said Hu Hao, an analyst for Beijing-based New Times Securities.

“Movie content is driving ticket sales, and Operation Red Sea saw box office spike within just a few days, largely through word of mouth,” Hu said.

“Demand was also strong in smaller Chinese cities, as millions of Chinese returned home from big cities to celebrate the holiday.”

Adventure film Detective Chinatown 2, set in New York’s Chinatown, was the biggest monthly contributor, raking in 2.83 billion yuan.

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The previous global monthly box office record was set back in July 2011, when North America saw $1.395 billion in ticket sales with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformer: Dark of the Moon, and Captain America : The First Avenger, according to figures compiled by Box Office Mojo.

China imposes a ban on foreign film imports every Spring Festival, the biggest holiday in China, and calling it the “domestic film protection period”.

On the first day of the Lunar New Year, which fell on February 16 this year, China’s domestic box office totalled 1.26 billion yuan, with 32.2 million people going to the cinema, setting another global record.

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Disney and Marvel’s Black Panther, which has dominated the US box office last weekend, will hit Chinese cinemas on March 9.

At the end of February, China had 9,914 cinemas and 53,824 silver screens, data from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television shows.

In 2017, domestic ticket sales jumped 22.3 per cent to 55.9 billion yuan, accelerating from a mere 3.7 per cent growth in 2016.

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Hu from New Times Securities expected domestic box office to continue to recover in 2018, but cautioned tighter regulations on the film and television industry, as well as the overall economic slowdown could put a drag on growth.