China’s box office grew by 30% to reach $2.74bn (RMB17.07bn), according to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), making it the second biggest box office territory in the world.

For the first time ever, US and other foreign films accounted for more than half of the China market in 2012, grossing $1.41bn (RMB8.8bn) for a 51.54% market share, according to the SARFT figures. Chinese-language films took in $1.33bn (RMB8.273m) for a 48.46% share.

In Feb 2012, Chinese authorities announced a new policy under which an additional 14 foreign 3D or IMAX films can be imported into China each year. This had an immediate impact on the market share of foreign films, which driven by hits such as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Titanic 3D, grew to 65% in the first half of the year.

Chinese films bounced back only in July, when Huayi Brothers Media’s Painted Skin: Resurrection stood out in the summer season with a $116.6m box office haul. According to local industry players, the film was helped by opening in the so-called “local film protection month” and was only released in 3D formats with higher ticket prices.

Eight out of the top ten films in 2012 were 3D releases, between them accounting for almost 29% of the box office, highlighting the format’s popularity in China.

In addition to Titanic 3D, other 3D releases included Disney/Marvel’s The Avengers, Sony’s Men In Black 3 (in 3D and IMAX), Warner Bro’s Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and Fox’s Life Of Pi and Ice Age: Continental Drift. Local 3D releases included Painted Skin: Resurrection and Jackie Chan’s CZ12

The strong performance of foreign films prompted the authorities to prolong the local film protection month over the summer and shift the release schedules of a few Hollywood blockbusters. Sony’s The Amazing Spiderman and Warner Bro’s The Dark Knight Rises were released on the same day, a move designed to lessen their impact, and were swiftly followed by Prometheus and The Expendables 2.

In December, local Chinese films finally come back with a bang. Enlight Pictures’ comedy Lost In Thailand created a box office phenomenon by grossing $183.8m. The film, budgeted at $5.6m, is now the highest-grossing Chinese-language film ever. Meanwhile, Feng Xiaogang’s star-studded drama Back To 1942, featuring Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins, grossed just $58.15m and didn’t make it into China’s top ten for 2012.

China has now surpassed Japan both in terms of box office takings number of screens and cinemas. The SARFT statistics reveal that 3,832 new screens opened in 2012, for a total of 13,118, of which 91% are digitised.


1.Lost In Thailand (Dec 12/Enlight Pictures) $183.38m*

2.Titanic 3D (Apr 10/CFG & Fox) $156.51m

3.Painted Skin: Resurrection (June 28/Huayi Brothers) $116.6m

4.CZ12 (Dec 20/Huayi Bros) $114.84m*

5.Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Jan 28/CFG & Disney) $104.08m

6.The Avengers (May 5/CFG & Disney) $91.95m

7.Life Of Pi (Nov 22/CFG & Fox) $90.33m

8.Men In Black 3 (May 25/CFG & Sony) $82.91m

9.Ice Age: Continental Drift (July 27/China Film & Fox) $73.48m

10.Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Feb 10/China Film & WB) $58.54m

* Still on release up until Dec 31, 2012

Source: SARFT and Screen International