Top of the world for China's box office

Box office receipts in February surpassed those in North America for the first time as the movies reached new audiences in the nation's smaller cities and towns. 

China’s monthly box-office receipts surpassed those in North America for the first time in February with a record 10.14 billion yuan (US$1.6 billion), while it was US$1.39 billion in the US. More than half the revenue was during the weeklong Chinese New Year holiday.

The top movie in China for February was the comedy detective film “Detective Chinatown II,” which made 2.83 billion yuan, followed by military movie “Operation Red Sea” and fantasy flick “Monster Hunt 2,” which took 2.43 billion and 2.1 billion yuan in box-office receipts, respectively.

During the month, more than 8.22 million film screenings were held across China, attracting 259 million viewers. Cinema officials were delighted to find a lot of elderly cinemagoers who had rarely attended movie screenings before.

Prior to February, the biggest box-office month in China was August 2017, with 7.33 billion yuan. 

Insiders anticipate the nation’s box office will exceed 70 billion yuan this year.

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Dante Lam's action-packed “Operation Red Sea” is a black horse in box office.

Professor Gu Xiaoming, a film and TV critic at Shanghai’s Fudan University, says he wasn’t surprised to see China become the world's biggest box-office market in February. 

“With years of development, Chinese cinema is becoming more diverse and mature,” Gu says. “And there are more effective methods of marketing. Going to the cinema has become a lifestyle for many people.”

Experts say China’s box office is also boosted by a strong growth in the number of theaters and screens, particularly in smaller cities. At present, there are around 50,000 screens around the country leading to more people in smaller cities and towns going to the cinema. 

However, Gu also notes that many Chinese movies still lack original scripts and distinctive characters.

“Filmmakers should learn to seek a certain balance between commercial and artistic pursuits for their movies,” he says. “They should not just pursue quick profits. And authorities should work on new policies to encourage originality and a healthy development of the film industry.”

Many movie buffs spoke highly of Dante Lam’s “Operation Red Sea,” a military blockbuster. Based on true events, the action-packed film centers on the Chinese Navy’s elite special forces who rescue hostages from terrorists.

“I was impressed by the movie’s sentiments of brotherhood,” says Jacky Zhang, an administrative manager in his 30s. “It truly depicts the cruelty of war with intense battle scenes and refined weapons.”

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Documentary film "Amazing China"

This month, an array of highly anticipated films will hit cinemas across the country. Among them are the documentary film “Amazing China,” Oscar-winning movies “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “The Shape of Water,” Indian comedy “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” and Hollywood blockbusters “Black Panther,” “Tomb Raider” and “Pacific Rim: Uprising.”

“Amazing China,” which started screening on March 2, records Chin’s largest radio telescope FAST, the world’s largest maritime drilling rig Blue Whale 2 and the development of 5G mobile technology.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a thought-provoking drama film about a mother who rents three billboards to call attention to her daughter’s unsolved murder. The film received Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor awards at the just-concluded 90th Academy Awards.

The American superhero film “Black Panther” is based on the Marvel Comics character. In the movie, T’Challa, prince of the African nation of Wakanda, must take over the throne after his father’s murder.

“Tomb Raider” is about the first expedition of Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer. “Pacific Rim: Uprising” is a sci-fi action film about a new generation of Jaeger pilots facing a new Kaiju threat. 

The three Hollywood films will be screened in both 3D and IMAX 3D versions.

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Frances McDormand plays the lead role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

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