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China’s Growing Box Office Outperforming Hollywood

Contributed by on March 9, 2015 at 1:14 am

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dragon blade adrien brodySFC Film / “Dragon Blade’ trailer  Adrien Brody currently stars in China’s number one box-office film, “Dragon Blade.”

Five Chinese films put on an incredible showing at China’s national box office over that Country’s New Year’s holiday weekend, one that’s resonating with the worldwide film industry and surpassing anything Hollywood has done in nearly two years.

All five rated among the top ten films at the global box office last weekend. The $282 million five-day stretch in the box office revealed that domestic hits can beat the earnings of the top US films.

The No. 1 film was the Jackie Chan-produced “Dragon Blade,” which stars John Cusack and Academy Award winner Adrien Brody as Roman soldiers lost in China, with a $56 million four-day draw (top picture).

The play “The Man from Macau” brought in $43 million and was followed by the fantasy story “Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal” and French director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “Wolf Totem,” at around $31 million each. Even a documentary about a TV reality show, “Where Are We Going Dad?” topped $21 million.

To place those numbers in perspective, there hasn’t been a weekend that powerful in the U.S. since “Fast & Furious 6″ drove a record Memorial Day weekend in 2013.

“The growth of the Chinese film industry, and the box office, is definitely happening faster than we expected,” said Ying Ye, managing director of Eastern Light. The organization is the Asian arm of Arclight Films, which is opening “Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal”  in limited release in the U.S. last weekend.

“Where just three years ago, making $20 million over the course of a movie’s run was good, today success can mean $100 million or even $200 million,” she said.

What is behind the unprecedented pull shown lately by Chinese movies at the box office?

More money invested – “Dragon Blade” was $65 million to make – have helped raise production values with improved post production and special effects work, as well as the tactical use of Hollywood celebrities.

The Chinese government, as well as keeping its ironclad limits on foreign releases, has vigorously backed the film industry with grants, and stoked continued exhibit sector increase by loosening regulations on picture merchandise sales.

China’s box office hit $2.7 billion last year and will overtake that of the U.S. by as early as 2017, some analysts have indicated. While recognizing that China’s film biz will necessarily approach that of the U.S. in terms of fiscal range and sway, most Hollywood studio executives are doubtful it’ll occur that fast.

“Those numbers out of the holiday are incredible” said Craig Dehmel, Twentieth Century Fox’s executive vice-president of international supply. It is worth noting that Chinese vendors piled their New Year’s holiday with high profile releases, substantially as Hollywood studios do in the summer or at the vacations, and that there clearly was no rivalry from Hollywood films.

Fox has had a front-row seat for China’s box office boom, and has bet huge on its future.

This past year, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” took in $116 million and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” grossed $115 million there. “Avatar” is No. 2 behind “Transformers: Age of Extinction on China’s all time box office list, and Jim Cameron has three more of them coming, with the first to arrive in 2017.

Fox International Productions, the Sanford Panitch-directed unit that makes local-language movies in foreign nations, recently signed a $130 million deal to make movies and TV programs in the area.

With budgets growing and production values increasing, it appears inescapable that Chinese companies will vigorously attempt to join with American moviegoers at some point.

To date, the sole two Chinese films to score in the United States have been the 2000 Oscar-winning “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” which grossed $128 million for Sony Classics, as well as the 2002 martial arts epic “Hero,” which brought in $54 million when Miramax released it stateside in 2004.

“To compete and get a share of the American pie is the ultimate goal for many in China, but the way to do that is by partnering with Hollywood on true coproductions,” said Wayne Lin, a marketing executive with China Lion, which is developing and shopping partnerships in six Chinese missions.

Christian Bale and Nicholas Cage have appeared in Chinese movies lately, but ahat’s behind the unprecedented punch shown lately by Chinese movies at the box office?

American stars including Christian Bale and Nicholas Cage have appeared in Chinese movies lately, but those characters were primarily for Chinese crowds anxious to see their favorites alongside Hollywood stars.

Will the day ever come with Chinese films can fight toe to toe with American-made films in the United States?

“I think you could pair Kevin Hart with just about any Chinese actor in a buddy movie and have a hit right now,” said BoxOffice.com senior analyst Phil Contrino.

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