China’s box office reached $1.19bn (RMB7.55bn) in the first six months of 2012, a 37% increase over the same period in 2011.

Hollywood blockbusters Titanic 3D, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Avengers and Men In Black 3 were the major driving force behind box office growth. 

The figures not only marked China’s biggest half-year haul to date, they also represented the widest gap yet between foreign and local films. Foreign films took a 70% share of the box office with 38 releases, while 91 locally-produced films, including co-productions, accounted for 30%.

The gains made by Hollywood films follow China’s decision in February to widen the film import quota with an additional 14 enhanced format films each year.

James Cameron’s Titanic 3D is now the third highest-grossing film of all time in China, behind Camerson’s Avatar ($215m) and Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark Of The Moon ($173m). Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, with $106.7m, becomes the fourth highest-grossing foreign film of all time in China. 

The only Chinese films to rank in the top ten are Derek Yee’s Hong Kong-China co-production The Great Magician and local animation Mission Incredible: Adventures On The Dragon’s Trail, which ranked in ninth and tenth places with $27.32m and $25.9m respectively. Mission Incredible is part of the popular Pleasant Goat franchise.

Ning Hao’s WWII action comedy Guns N’ Roses stands as the third biggest local film in the first half of the year. Released in late April, while Titanic 3D, The Avengers and Battleship were on release, the film took in $24.06m (RMB153m) and is regarded by the local industry as one of the few survivors standing up to Hollywood competition.

March, which is generally regarded a quiet month at the Chinese box office, produced stronger results than usual thanks to releases such as John Carter, War Horse and Hong Kong-Chinese co-production A Simple Life, which scooped best actress at Venice last year. April, also usually a quiet month, was boosted by Titanic 3D, The Avengers and Battleship.

The first six months also saw a record number of releases – 129 compared to 103 in the first half of 2011.

According to stats from the past five years, first half box office usually accounts for 40% of the year-end total. Bigger Chinese films are usually released in the second half. Chinese films scheduled for the second half of this year include Feng Xiaogang’s 1942, starring Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins, Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster and Jackie Chan’s Chinese Zodiac.

However, Hollywood will also roll out The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-man, Ice Age 4, The Hobbit and Life Of Pi from September to December. All of the above blockbusters will be released in 3D and possibly IMAX format, which means higher ticket prices and bigger numbers.

China Top Ten Box Office (Jan 1-June 30, 2012)

1.Titanic 3D – $153.46m (RMB976m)

2.Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – $106.7m (RMB678.9m)

3.The Avengers – $90.41m (RMB575m)

4.Men In Black 3 – $88.05m (RMB560m)*

5.Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – $60.85m (RMB387.33m)

6.Battleship – $50m (RMB318m)

7.John Carter – $40.8m (RMB259.5m)

8.Sherlock Holms: A Game Of Shadows – $29.31m (RMB186.43m)

9.The Great Magician – $27.32m (RMB173.77m)

10.Mission Incredible: Adventures On The Dragon’s Trail – $25.9m (RMB164.73m)

* Still on release, up until June 30, 2012

Source: SARFT and Screen International