China's box office is expected to surpass the U.S. in 2017 to become the largest market in the world, while more Chinese movie enterprises will turn to global investments to learn and practice international industry methods, a report released by H. Brothers Research and the Institute for Cultural Industries at Beijing University on Monday predicted.
"No longer satisfied with domestic success, Chinese film companies are exploring the international market quicker than ever before," said the report.
If China's movie industry continues growing at the more than 30 percent rate it has been from 2005 to 2015, then China's total box office will surpass the U.S. in 2017 to become the largest box office market in the world, predicted Feng Wei, The Motion Picture Association of America's chief representative in China, at the Culture and Financial Forum in Shanghai last Wednesday.
By December 3, China's total box office reached 40 billion yuan ($6.1 billion), with 23.7 billion earned by domestic films for 59.2 percent, and 16.3 billion earned by imported movies, according to data released by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) on December 8.
According the Beijing Evening News, this box office was reached with what it called "low data": per capita annual movie attendance in China is only 1 - in South Korea it reaches 4.1 - and average attendance is only 14.95 percent, which demonstrates a large potential for China's box office to continue to grow.
Finding a way
However, while the market is growing fast, Chinese movies have been earning less overseas. The report shows that Chinese movie revenue overseas reached a peak of 3.52 billion yuan in 2010, dropping to 2 billion yuan the following year. The lowest point was reached in 2013 as exported Chinese films only earned 400 million yuan.
In a statement made last May, Luan Guozhi, the vice director of movie department of SAPPRFT, concluded that the best way for Chinese films to perform better overseas is to make films that "present the core of Chinese culture in an international way." To learn this "international way," China has signed cooperation agreements with 13 countries including the UK and South Korea. Films produced under these agreements would be able to be shown in China without taking up an import quota slot.
Investing overseas is also a way for Chinese companies to gain experience.
"Many people in the movie industry agree that investing in foreign companies may be the fastest way for Chinese enterprises to learn how these Hollywood studios produce their films for the global market," Chen Changye, the director of H. Brothers Research, told the Global Times.
According to the report, Chinese movie companies cooperated with Hollywood studios on 57 projects, including action films such as Mission Impossible 5 and animated films like Blazing Samurai. By financially investing in overseas studios, Chinese companies can also share in the global revenue from these studios and can explore derivatives products such as theme parks because they would have partial ownership of overseas IPs.
"Things are just getting started. China's studios will soon bring more Chinese stories to the world in the future," concluded Chen.