China economy

China’s cinema box office sets Lunar New Year holiday record as ticket sales hit US$852 million

Sequels to local franchises Detective Chinatown and Monster Hunt drive 52pc hike in revenue

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 February, 2018, 1:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 February, 2018, 10:25pm

More Chinese than ever piled into cinemas this Lunar New Year holiday, setting a record for box-office sales over the seven-day period and helping boost shares of film companies.

Local comedy franchises Monster Hunt and Detective Chinatown led the way in a 52 per cent year-on-year surge that comes as a relief for content creators both in the US and China, who invested heavily in the market only to see ticket sales growth slow last year. Ticket sales soared to 5.4 billion yuan (US$852.3 million) over the holiday, according to ticketing data provider Maoyan.

Investors are focusing on China’s resurgent cinema market after companies from internet giant Tencent Holdings to conglomerates like Dalian Wanda Group have bet billions on forming alliances with local and Hollywood filmmakers to meet surging demand. A dearth of hits, the rise of a discerning audience and something more structural such as the slowing pace of new cinema additions have been blamed for the slump in the past two years.

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“Quality and word of mouth are becoming the most important drivers of box office,” analysts led by Wei Meng at China International Capital Corporation wrote in a report on Thursday. They expect full-year box office sales to rise by between 25 per cent and 34 per cent this year.

Ticket sales grew about 3.7 per cent in 2016 and 15 per cent last year, compared with the more than 35 per cent average from 2011 to 2015.

Detective Chinatown 2, a Chinese action-comedy take on Sherlock Holmes produced by billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Wanda Pictures, was the holiday’s biggest hit, taking in 1.9 billion yuan. Monster Hunt 2, the second instalment of China’s box-office record holder for 2015, grossed 1.7 billion yuan.

Investors back from the holidays ploughed into shares of companies associated with hits.

China Film Co, distributor of the holiday’s top two films, surged as much as 8.6 per cent when markets opened on Thursday following a week-long break. Jiangsu Lugang Culture Co, which invested in Operation Red Sea, the third-biggest holiday hit, jumped as much as 10 per cent.