China's box office continued to grow in 2006 with combined grosses reaching $335.5m (RMB2.62bn), an increase of 30% on takings of $256m (RMB2bn) in 2005, according to figures released by the Film Bureau under the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT).

The Film Bureau also announced that China's annual production volume rose to 330 films in 2006 compared to 260 the previous year, an increase of 26%.

Chinese productions had a market share of 55.03%, according to the government statistics, a very slight decrease from their 2005 market share of 55.1%.

Zhang Yimou's Curse Of The Golden Flower, which is still on release, was the highest-grossing film in 2006, taking $32m (RMB250m) by its third week. Feng Xiaogang's The Banquet, also a period drama, came in second with a box office gross of $16.6m (RMB130m).

Five locally-produced and five Hollywood films made it into the top ten. Sony's The Da Vinci Code and UIP's King Kong took the third and fourth places in the 2006 chart, with takings of $13.4m (RMB105m) and $13.06m (RMB102m) respectively.

Although Chinese films accounted for more than half the box office, and production volume has increased, only 30% of the 330 films produced in 2006 actually managed to secure a theatrical release. The ratio is lower than in 2005 when 34% of the 260 films produced were released in theatres.

The top ten local films take up more than 56% of the combined box office for local productions, leaving around 200 mid-budget films struggling to enter or survive in cinemas.

Film Bureau deputy director Zhang Pimin said the bureau was aware of the difficulties faced by small-to-mid budget local films and is planning to set up arthouse cinemas in China.

China Top Ten 2006

1. Curse Of The Golden Flower - $32m (RMB250m)
2. The Banquet - $16.6m (RMB130m)
3. The Da Vinci Code - $13.4m (RMB105m)
4. King Kong - $13.06m (RMB102m)
5. Fearless - $12.9m (RMB101m)
6. Rob-B-Hood - $12.4m (RMB97m)
7. Mission Impossible III - $10.5m (RMB82m)
8. Poseidon - $8.8m (RMB68.9m)
9. Battle Of Wits - $8.6m (RMB67m)
10. Superman Returns - $8m (RMB62.5m)

China Top Ten Local Films 2006

1. Curse Of The Golden Flower - $32m (RMB250m)
2. The Banquet - $16.6m (RMB130m)
3. Fearless - $12.9m (RMB101m)
4. Rob-B-Hood - $12.4m (RMB97m)
5. Battle Of Wits - $8.6m (RMB67m)
6. Confession Of Pain - $7.4m (RMB58m)
7. Dragon Tiger Gate - $6.6m (RMB51.3m)
8. The Knot - $4.1m (RMB32.3m)
9. Crazy Stone - $2.9m (RMB23m)
10. The Tokyo Trial - $2.6m (RMB20.3m)

Source: State Administration of Radio, Film and Television