Analysis: The Chinese box office is booming, but Hollywood could see its first year of negative growth in the country
China is not turning out to be the pot of gold Hollywood expected it to be a year ago after the country loosened restrictions on the number of foreign films it imports.
The country's box office returns continue to grow at an astonishing rate, but foreign films are accounting for a smaller and smaller chunk of the pie, according to data from China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. During the first six months of the year, films from the United States and other foreign countries accounted for $674.3 million, which is a 21.3 percent decline from the previous year.
Overall, China's box office was up 36.2 percent, topping out at roughly $1.7 billion. That growth is largely attributable to domestic productions such as "Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons” and "So Young." The success of those films has increased the Chinese film industry's box office revenue by 144 percent to roughly $1.1 billion over the period.
Of the top five biggest box office hits in China during the first half of the year, only "Iron Man 3" with its $121 million take was from the United States.
As the Shenzen Evening News recently pointed out, if the trend continues, it could mean that Hollywood will experience negative growth in China for the first time in recent history.
The report caps several frustrating months for Hollywood. On Tuesday, TheWrap broke the news that Chinese authorities had denied "Despicable Me 2" a release slot. That rejection comes on the heels of a similar decision regarding "World War Z," not to mention a series of capricious maneuvers.
Chinese authorities have rejected "Django Unchained" at the last minute, sent Disney scrambling to scrap a promotional trip that would have brought Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer to the mainland for "The Lone Ranger" and jerked "The Croods" out of cinemas two weeks early.
A year ago, Hollywood gazed eastward, found a country with a burgeoning middle class and a population of moviegoers, and saw a source of potential profits that could help the industry rebound from the downturn in the home entertainment market.
This recent data demonstrates that a few great walls have sprung up in front of those ambitions.