Chinese Filmgoers Spend $34.7 Billion, Surpassing Japan

Chinese movie fans led worldwide cinema sales ahead 6 percent to a record $34.7 billion last year, as the world’s most-populous nation passed Japan to become the No. 2 film market.

Movie-goers in China increased their box-office spending by 36 percent to $2.7 billion last year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America, the Washington-based trade group, which released year-end statistics yesterday.

The growth puts China behind only the U.S. and Canada, where fans increased spending by 6 percent last year to a combined $10.8 billion, according to the trade group. In Japan previously the second-largest market, revenue rose 4.3 percent to $2.4 billion, the MPAA said.

“China’s building 10 screens a day,” Christopher Dodd, the association’s chairman and chief executive officer, said on a conference call. “There’s a voracious appetite for product and our films have consistently done well.”

Policy changes in China have increased the number of foreign films that can be released in the country, said Dodd. The former U.S. senator, a Connecticut Democrat, also said he has shared his concerns with Chinese officials over rules that keep U.S. films from being shown during “blackout” periods to help local productions.

“We’ve raised concerned about that to the highest authorities,” Dodd said. “While it’s vastly improved, there’s always going to be bumps in the road.”

Ticket revenue in Europe, the Middle East and Africa fell 1 percent to $10.7 billion, due to declines in France, Italy and Spain.

Cinema Attendance

U.S. and Canadian theater attendance increased 6 percent to 1.36 billion tickets, although that remains below the past decade’s high of 1.52 billion in 2003. The average movie ticket price was little changed at $7.96. Revenue from 3-D films was unchanged at $1.8 billion, although the number of such films released fell 20 percent to 36.

The total number of films released rose 11 percent to 677, led by a 17 percent increase in independent pictures to 549. Movies released by the major Hollywood studios fell 9 percent to 128.

The number of cinema screens increased 5 percent worldwide, the result of double-digit percentage growth in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the association said.

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