The meteoric growth of China’s film industry has been fueled by an expanding middle class and breakneck expansion of cinema infrastructure.
This growth has been phenomenal, outperforming China’s traditional industries such as manufacturing.
From Bigger to Biggest
China is currently the second-largest film market in the world after the US. Under conservative assumptions, China’s gross box office is expected to surpass that of U.S. by 2018, to become the largest movie market in the world by 2020.
In 2015, the Chinese box office was reported to be US$ 7.18 billion, while US was US$10.19 billion and Australia US$ 0.91 billion. 2015’s Furious 7 grossed even more in China (US$390 million) than in the United States (US$353 million).
Chinese cinema admissions grew by 236% between 2009 and 2013. Ticket prices are also increasing; rising 268% from 2009 to 2014.
There has been an 886% increase in Chinese cinema screens from 2004 to 2014. Chinese screens were built at a pace of 27 a day in 2016. The current screen count for China is about 28,000 screens for a population of 1.4 billion people compared to America’s approximate 40,000 screens and Australia’s 2,080 screens. This number in China is set to explode to as many as 53,000 screens by 2017.
Two main factors are driving the incredible growth in Chinese film revenues:
1. The growing popularity of movie-going among China’s young urbanites and its burgeoning middle classes is first and foremost the primary factor for the industry’s exponential growth.
The Chinese population has embraced movies, both foreign and increasingly domestically made Chinese movies, with exuberance. High ticket prices and generally mediocre films haven’t deterred them from filling up theatres to capacity.
2. Cinema construction is booming. Thousands of new screens are opening each year, affording millions of potential customers the opportunity — many of them for the first time ever — to enjoy the movie-going experience in modern multiplexes.
The addition of screens outside the major cities, partly thanks to government subsidies, provides the industry with plenty of opportunities for steady expansion into second, third, and fourth-tier cities.
The more optimistic forecasters have suggested that the Chinese cinema boom is recession-proof; as with many other countries, going to the cinema is seen in China as an affordable form of entertainment.