China is forecast to be the fast growing cinema market in the Asia Pacific region over the next five years according to a new report, Cinemagoing Asia Pacific by Dodona Research.

Chinese box office is expected to more than triple to reach $380m by 2008, compared to $120m last year. The report, which covers twelve markets in the region, forecasts that cinema-goers in these countries will spend close to $7.5bn on cinema tickets in 2008.

China has only 2,000 functioning screens - and out of these the 336 screens built or modernised in the last few years account for 45% of national box office. Government encouragement, however, is expected to result in a considerable expansion of industry capacity.

The fastest-growing industry has been South Korea, where screen quotas have led to the development of a strong local film industry, and to the nation's screen count more than doubling over the least five years to reach 1,100 in 2003.

3.4 billion cinema tickets were sold in the region in 2003, most of them in India, where 2.8 billion people attended cinemas during the year. India boasts11,000 out of the region's 21,713 screens.

Although India dominates the market in terms of admissions, its $0.66 average ticket price means that, at the box office level, the market is worth barely more than Japan, where ticket prices, $10.84 in 2003, are the highest in the world. High ticket prices are also found in some other countries of the region: tickets are more expensive in Taiwan ($6.85) and Hong Kong ($6.23) than in either Australia ($6.13) or New Zealand ($4.92).

Of regional box office of $5.5bn in 2003, $3.6bn was earned in India and Japan. The next most important markets were South Korea ($570m) and Australia ($559m). Taken together, the wholly or partly ethnically Chinese markets of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia had a combined box office of nearly $45m, while the Philippines, Thailand and New Zealand markets were worth about $90m each.

Looking to the future the report cites two developments in particular which will support growth. The first is the opening of the Chinese market, which the authors consider will enhance the scope for recoupment for Chinese-language films. "The decline of the Chinese-language film industry has been one of the key factors in the disappointing performance of many East Asian markets over the last decade, " says Sarah Brown, "a turnaround in its fortunes will have a positive impact across a large part of the region."

Second, Asia is the leading adopter of digital cinema technology, with large scale commercial projects already under way in China, India, Japan and Singapore.