Cinema box office in China went down by 2.7% in the first half of 2019 to RMB31.2 billion ($4.5 billion). Cinema admissions decreased by a larger 10.3% to 808 million compared to the same period last year. A total of 4,585 new screens were added in the first six months of 2019, slightly less than H1 2018, but still at a fast pace. The average ticket price rose slightly by 3 yuan ($0.4), to reach 38.6 yuan ($5.6) in H1 2019. A total of 252 films were released in the first half of 2019, of which 67 were imported films.
The decline in box office and admissions raised a concern in the market as it is the first time China saw a negative growth (in the first half of the year) since 2011. However, this is compared to an exceptional performance in the first quarter of 2018.
It is more worrying that less people visit cinemas despite those 4,585 new screens being added in the first half of 2019. The slightly increased average ticket price helped to ease the gap in box office, however, it is also one of the reasons claimed to drag down the level of admissions.
A lack of blockbusters was another reason for the poor performance in H1 2019. Nine titles went over the RMB1 billion threshold in H1 2018, five from local and four from overseas; while only 6 titles in H1 2019, and three from each category.
On 30th Jun, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) in China has issued a revised “negative lists”, which name the sectors prohibited or restricted by foreign investment. The list has been reduced from 48 to 40, and one of them is “the construction and operation of cinemas must be controlled by the Chinese side”. This is good news to the market, as this may lift the cinema industry with an injection of new blood. However, it will not be easy given strong local competitors and the current situation of slowdown in growth. This policy will come into effect on July 30, 2019.