China became the first major movie market to bounce back from an epidemic-hit year in 2020, hauling in 20.4 billion yuan ($3.12 billion) in box office receipts, the China Film Administration said on Thursday night.
That result saw it end the year as the world’s top-ranking market for the first time, beating out North America.
The administration, the sector’s top regulator, said domestic films grossed 17.1 billion yuan, accounting for 83.7 percent of total ticket revenue last year. With 5,794 newly installed screens, China now has 75,581, enhancing its world-leading status for the fourth consecutive year.
The country produced 650 movies last year－531 of them drama features－and cinema admissions on the Chinese mainland totaled 548 million.
The North American market grossed $2.08 billion last year due to a nine-month pandemic standstill. In 2019, ticket revenue in China totaled $9.8 billion, while the North American market was worth $11.32 billion, according to movie data trackers Beacon and Box Office Mojo.
Grossing over 3.11 billion yuan, The Eight Hundred topped the charts as the highest-grossing Chinese film in 2020, followed by the anthology comedy My People, My Homeland in second place and the animated feature Legend of Deification.
Counting overseas revenues, The Eight Hundred surpassed Bad Boys for Life, starring Will Smith, and the Christopher Nolan-directed sci-fi movie Tenet to become the world’s top-earning film in 2020, according to Box Office Mojo.
Rao Shuguang, president of the China Film Critics Association, said the uplifting figures exemplified the efforts of Chinese filmmakers and the Chinese audience’s passion for cinema, enhancing the industry’s confidence to produce quality content.
Industry analyst Mu Chen, who heads Beacon’s research institute, said domestic films had risen to become the major power propelling the homegrown market’s robust recovery. Mu said the upcoming Spring Festival holiday－one of China’s most lucrative box-office seasons－will accelerate the recovery of the domestic market.
Liang Jing, the actress-turned-producer known for The Eight Hundred and Sacrifice, said the epidemic crisis might prove to be a turning point for Chinese filmmakers.
It had accelerated the Chinese film industry’s teaming up with internet players, she said, encouraging local talent to figure out a more efficient way to draw audiences now that pandemic prevention measures have been normalized.