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Adam Minter

Is China's Movie Boom Doomed?

A stark box-office decline suggests some looming problems.
Competition is good.

Competition is good.

Photographer: Weng Zhao/AFP
Updated on

It's been a tough summer for China's movie business. In what's usually blockbuster season, box-office sales declined for the first time in five years. In July alone, theater visits fell 15 percent. Things are looking especially grim for Chinese films: They've been underperforming foreign competition so badly that the government suspended a longstanding moratorium on summer Hollywood flicks intended to give a boost to local studios.

That's an abrupt turnabout for an industry that grew by 50 percent last year. Although it may prove temporary, it nonetheless illuminates some looming challenges for China's moviemakers -- and for its culture business more broadly.