The Chinese box office is on track to break the U.S. equivalent of $2 billion by the end of the year, according to a recent report from the country's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.
Additionally, more than 500 feature films were produced in China in 2011. Chinese releases totaled 526, compared with 456 in 2009. And China added an average of eight new screens per day this year. There are now more than 9,000 screens in China, compared with 6,200 in 2010.
As of Dec. 15, total box-office earnings had totaled more than 12 billion yuan, the reports says. That figure which equates to roughly $1.89 billion U.S. dollars.
The $2 billion mark is expected to be surpassed thanks to the recent openings of the Christian Bale war epic "The Flowers of War" and the Jet Li martial-arts film "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate" (pictured above). Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers of War" has the biggest production budget ever for a film made in China: $94 million.
Last year, the total box-office gross in China was $1.61 billion -- an increase of more than 60 percent over the previous year's figure. That made China the third-largest global box-office market, behind only the U.S. and Japan. The Japanese box office grossed $2.26 billion in 2010.
China's booming box office contrasts sharply with the U.S. results. As of Sunday, total North American ticket sells stood at $9.64 billion, which is short of the $10.58 billion mark that was set in 2010.
China is also the fastest-growing country in the global IMAX business, according to a China Film Industry Report. China was expected to have 48 IMAX theaters by mid-year and 2,500 3D screens by the end of 2011.
China's film-industry trends contradict the country's broader economic woes. According to Reuters, the first quarter is expected to be especially tough because of slow European and U.S. demand.