China’s box office grew by 42.7% to $330.16m (RMB2.26bn) in the first half of 2009, thanks to a combination of local and US hits, including Transformers 2 which is on its way to becoming the biggest film ever in the territory.

According to figures from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and Screen’s in-house box office research, revenue from Jan-March, including the lucrative Spring Festival period, reached $183m (RMB1.25bn).

From April-May, another $147.14m (RMB1bn) was added to the tally due to hits such as Lu Chuan’s City Of Life And Death and US blockbusters including Wolverine, Night at Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian and Transformers 2.

As the market generally performs better in the latter half of the year, with the summer and year-end movie seasons yet to come, Beijing-based cinema managers and analysts predict the total box office revenue in 2009 should be between $732m and $805m (RMB5-5.5bn).

City Of Life And Death, about the 1937 Nanjing massacre, was the first film to lift the normally low April film market. Released by China Film Group, the film grossed $24.26m (RMB165.7m). 

In May, foreign films began to dominate China’s box office with Fox’s Wolverine grossing around $11.42m (RMB78m), Paramount’s Star Trek raking in around $8.78m (RMB60m), and Fox’s Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian taking $18.59m (RMB126.97m)

In June, Warner Bros’ Terminator Salvation took around $15.52m (RMB106m) while Transformers 2 had grossed around $44m (RMB300m) as of Wednesday, July 8, and was expected to break Titanic’s RMB360m record to become the highest-grossing film in China of all time.

Looking ahead to summer season, Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince will heat up the market even more. Meanwhile, Fox’s Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs and Disney’s Up will be released on July 8 and Aug 4 respectively on China’s 3D screens.

These US films will go head-to-head with local titles such as Alan Mak and Felix Chong’s thriller Overheard, Empire Of Silver starring Aaron Kwok and comedy One Night In The Supermarket which will all be released by the end of July.