China’s summer holiday box office sales surged to a record, one of the few bright spots in the country’s consumer sector as mounting economic headwinds spur people to be more selective in their spending.
(Bloomberg) — China’s summer holiday box office sales surged to a record, one of the few bright spots in the country’s consumer sector as mounting economic headwinds spur people to be more selective in their spending.
The country has recorded 16.5 billion yuan ($2.3 billion) — excluding service fees charged by ticketing platforms — in sales so far in the season that runs between June 1 and Aug. 31, according to data from Maoyan Entertainment. That beats the previous high of 16.4 billion yuan in 2019.
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Ticket sales have been helped by a raft of blockbusters. Chinese mystery crime film Lost in the Stars is the third-biggest title of the year and 12th-highest grossing movie of all time in the country. Meg 2: The Trench, a joint production between Warner Bros Discovery Inc. and local partner China Media Capital, has also blown past Hollywood offerings including Barbie and Tom Cruise’s new Mission Impossible to dominate.
The popularity of going to the cinema underscores the increasingly divergent spending patterns among China’s consumers. A steady stream of data signaling worsening growth, including a deepening property crisis, has made people in the world’s second-biggest economy more cautious with their money and many are preferring to splash their cash on in-person activities like eating out and travel over buying big-ticket items.
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The resurgence of the Chinese box office after last year’s Covid lockdowns battered takings also ramps up pressure on American studios, which have faced difficulties in getting approval to release some of their top titles into the Asian nation amid deteriorating relations between Beijing and Washington. Just one Hollywood film has managed to break into the top 10 of China’s box office so far this year, compared with one as of this time last year and four in 2019, according to data from ticketing platform Maoyan.
“The domestic industry makes large scale, Hollywood types of films that are way more relevant to Chinese consumers,” said Chris Fenton, an American film producer and trustee of the US-Asia Institute. “Because of that, and the spectacle those movies can bring to the screens, consumers are coming back to theaters in big ways. It’s cheap entertainment, relatively, and the theater-going experience in China is very modernized and tech advanced.”
China lost the title of world’s largest film market to the US in 2022, and year-to-date ticket sales of about $5 billion still trail the US’s $6.3 billion.
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