China’s summer box office reached a new peak, with total revenues of 17.6 billion yuan (US$2.45 billion), according to data released on Tuesday by ticketing app Maoyan and microblogging site Weibo. Almost half a billion individual cinema tickets were sold between June and August, pushing revenues slightly above last summer’s figure of 17.4 billion yuan to set a new record. Counter-intuitively, the slowdown in China’s economy may have actually boosted the numbers this year, as people sought cheaper forms of entertainment. One in every five cinema-goers was a student, the data showed. “If they can buy two hours of happiness and relaxation with about 30 yuan, a lot of young adults would be willing to spend the money,” said Polly Lee, telecommunication, media and entertainment sector southern region leader at Deloitte China. Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away sets China box office record The biggest summer hits were Ne Zha , a Chinese fantasy animation, The Bravest an action drama about firefighters, and Marvel’s superhero movie Spider-Man: Far From Home . Ne Zha , China’s highest-grossing film so far this year, is the first animation to top the summer chart. The film, released on July 26, made 4.68 billion yuan. Half of the top 10 movies were imports, and they accounted for a third of box office takings. Receipts in June went past the 4 billion yuan mark for the first time, while August also set a new record for the month, hitting 7.77 billion yuan. China is the world’s second biggest market for box office receipts. In the US, movie-goers spent US$3.9 billion on tickets during the summer, with The Lion King being the most popular choice, according to film data site Box Office Mojo. Young mainland Chinese audiences prefer fantasy films that involve strong elements of technology, space exploration, artificial intelligence and heroism, said Lee. They are often drawn to a particular movie before its release, by an advertising campaign. “Film-related toys and games are even launched earlier than the film itself,” said the analyst. “It speeds up the penetration of those movies to the younger market.” She said people are starting to watch more local films because the production quality of Chinese movies is catching up with overseas ones. She expects science fiction films with computer-generated imagery will continue to dominate the Chinese film industry in the near future. Film remakes, sequels of classic films and characters from mythologies are also more likely to lead the trend because they are more familiar to the audience, said Lee. As examples, she cited Ne Zha , a film based on a character from Chinese folk religion, and The Lion King , a remake of the hit 1994 Disney animation.