Does Hollywood Still Need China at the Box Office? ‘Avatar 2’ May Be the Final Test | Charts

Hollywood’s share of the Chinese box office has dropped from 45% to 8%, leading studios to take a different attitude toward the Middle Kingdom

After a decade which saw Hollywood viewing Chinese box office as a path to fortune and glory, with a rapidly expanding marketplace providing a boost to overall grosses for their biggest franchise-friendly blockbusters, the last three years have seen a reversal of fortune which may leave China’s moviegoing industry struggling to justify its value to Tinseltown. Enter “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

James Cameron’s 3-D sequel just won approval for release on Dec. 16, the same day the sequel opens in most territories, including the U.S. The global success of the original “Avatar” — which earned a then-record $200 million when it opened in China in early 2010 (a 2021 re-release earned an additional $57 million) — helped convince Hollywood to focus on the Middle Kingdom as a growing movie market. However, Lightstorm and 20th Century Studios’ sequel is one of the last, best chances the superpower will have to show that Hollywood should still bother with a territory that has proven fickle in recent years. 

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Scott Mendelson

Before joining The Wrap, Scott Mendelson got his industry start in 2008 with a self-piloted film blog titled "Mendelson's Memos." In 2013, he was recruited to write for where he wrote almost exclusively for nearly a decade. In that time he published copious in-depth analytical and editorialized entertainment industry articles specializing in (but not exclusively focused upon) theatrical box office. A well-known industry pundit, Mendelson has appeared on numerous podcasts and been featured as a talking head on NPR, CNN, Fox and BBC.