Box office revenue in China reached RMB60.9 bn in 2018, a 9.1% growth year-on-year, according to data from China Film Administration (former SARFT). In total, 1.716 bn cinema tickets were sold during the year, up from 1.62 bn in 2017. In terms of screen expansion, a total of 9,303 cinemas screens were added during 2018 to finish the year with 60,079 screens. Local films had a fruitful year with a market share of 62.2%, up from 53.8% in 2017. Six local films ranked in the Top 10 list. Operation Red Sea, Detective Chinatown 2, Dying to Survive, and Hello Mr. Billionaire were the biggest hits in box office terms.
The cinema industry in China reached a new high in 2018, though the growth rate is back under 10% for the second time to 9.1% (3.6% in 2016). Growth rate starts to slow down since 2016 after a period of rapid expansion, which is expected after such fast growth in previous years.
Screen growth was still dynamic in 2018. A total of 9,303 new cinema screens were added, or about 26 screens per day, a similar rate to 2017 and 2016. Majority of the new screens were located in Tier 2, 3, 4 and 5 cities, as Tier 1 cities nearly reached full maturity. Cinemas became more accessible in smaller cities, which also drive more cinema admissions and box office in those cities. Admissions density in Tier 3, 4 and 5 cities have been increased from 40.9% in 2016 to 45.0% in H1 2018, while box office density has been increased from 39.0% in 2016 to 41.1% in 2018. Box office shows less growth compared with admissions as the tickets price normally lower in smaller cities.
On December 2018, the China Film Administration issued an official paper to accelerate the construction of cinemas and promote the development of the film market in China. One of the key objectives in the paper is to reach 80,000 screens by 2020, which means 10,000 new screens per year for the next two years. This is not easy to achieve as the number never reached that high in recent history, not even in the rapid expansion period. However, at least it shows the government’s endeavour to support the film industry. Screen infrastructure is one of the main drivers for box office growth, but not a guarantee. Box office success also needs good content and other factors such as technology and service levels…