China's total box office gross reached $458.63m (RMB3.33bn) in 2007, a 26% increase on the previous year, marking the fifth year in a row that box office has risen by more by then 20%. The figures were announced on Friday (Jan 11) by the Film Bureau under China 's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT).

Local productions grossed $248.27m (RMB1.8bn) in 2007, according to Film Bureau statistics, an increase of 24% on the previous year. The market share of local films was 54.13%, down 0.9% on 2006.

Foreign films gained considerably in 2007, grossing a combined $209.53m (RMB1.52bn), a 29% increase on 2006. Revenue-sharing films, which were mainly US blockbusters, took a combined $158.87m (RMB1.17bn), which is a 37% increase on 2006, while flat-fee foreign films grossed $48.24m (RMB350m).

Meanwhile, the number of films produced in China in 2007 reached 402, which is a 21.8% increase on the previous year.

Statistics combining Film Bureau and Screen International's own box office research shows that local productions did not perform well during the first half of 2007, grossing only around $41.36m (RMB300m).

However, local films began to take off from October, with Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, Peter Ho-sun Chan's The Warlords and Feng Xiaogang's The Assembly each breaking the $13.78m (RMB100m) threshold.

Local films released in cinemas in first to third-tier cities grossed around $152.6m (RMB1.1bn) in total, while rural areas accounted for the remaining $95.7m.

There are signs that the Chinese box office is becoming less polarised with a growing number of successful mid-sized films. In the three years prior to 2007, big-budget local productions accounted for more than 50% of the total gross for local movies, while mid-budget films had a tiny share of the market.

However, in 2007 ten local films grossed more than $4m (RMB30m) and 20 films grossed over $1.4m (RMB10m). The box office success of mid-sized films has reduced the market share of blockbusters to less than 25%.

'China's box office has shifted from a polarised structure to a pyramid structure. This is a healthy development for the Chinese film market,' said Beijing Film Academy professor Chen Xiaoyun.

Action blockbusters and comedies remain favourite genres for Chinese films. However, last year the subject matter of blockbusters shifted from martial arts to war, with films such as The Assembly and The Warlords.

These two gritty war films, which deal with the Chinese Civil War and Taiping Rebellion respectively, were released within a week of each other. 'The head-to-head release of these two films and their strong box office demonstrates that the Chinese audience has increasing consumer power for movies,' said Wu Hehu, general manager of Shanghai United Cinema circuit.

In the top ten local productions chart, eight of the ten films involve Hong Kong investment or co-production and five were made by Hong Kong directors. ' Hong Kong filmmakers are increasingly realising that the mainland should be the target market for their films,' said Polybona Film Distribution president Yu Dong.

In the exhibition sector, 102 new cinemas opened in 2007 with 493 screens. According to Film Bureau statistics, 1.35 screens are added per day.

China Top Ten 2007

1.Transformers - $37.61m (RMB277m)

2. The Warlords - $26.47m (RMB192m)*

3. The Assembly - $24.81m (RMB180m)*

4. Spider-Man 3 - $19.82m (RMB146m)

5. Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix - $19.41m (RMB143m)

6. Lust, Caution - $18.88m (RMB137m)

7. Pirates Of The Caribbean - At World's End - $16.97m (RMB125m)

8. Casino Royale - $12.62m (RMB93m)

9. Night At The Museum - $8.83m (RMB65m)

10. Curse Of The Golden Flower - $8.27m (RMB60m)**

*Up until Dec 31, 2007

** During the 2007 screening period

China Top Ten Local Films 2007

1. The Warlords - $26.47m (RMB192m)*

2. The Assembly - $24.81m (RMB180m)*

3. Lust, Caution - $18.88m (RMB137m)

4. Protege - $8.96m (RMB65m)

5. Curse Of The Golden Flower - $8.27m (RMB60m)**

6. Confession Of Pain - $5.51m (RMB40m)**

7. Crossed Lines - $5.1m (RMB37m)

=8. Flash Point - $4.69m (RMB34m)

=8. Secret - $4.69m (RMB34m)

=8. Invisible Target - $4.69m (RMB34m)

*Up until Dec 31, 2007

** During the 2007 screening period

Source: Screen International