The Chinese box office total gross reached $2.06bn (RMB13 billion) in 2011, up around 30% from 2010. Compared to the 61% growth rate in 2010, the 2011 growth shows some slowdown.

The boom of cinema development as well as the large number of 3D releases are two main reasons for the 30% growth.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon contributed $172.86m (RMB1.089bn) and topped China’s box office chart 2011. Kung Fu Panda 2 took in $96.82m (RMB610m). Zhang Yimou’s war epic The Flowers of War earned $92.83m (RMB488m), and is still on release. The Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides took in $73.81m (RMB465m). Tsui Hark’s 3D martial arts film Flying Swords of Dragon Gate earned $68.89m (RMB434m)

Out of the top 10 films in 2011, six films were released in 3D. And in total there were over 30 films released in 3D in 2011, 14 out of the 30 films were Hollywood blockbusters. The 30 3D releases made more than RMB5billion, which accounted for 40% of the total box office gross in 2011.

On the other hand, a majority of Chinese-language productions fell short of the expected sales in 2011, especially many period dramas such as Wu Xia, The Lost Bladesman and A Chinese Fairy Tale. Local production reached 500 films in 2011. However, according to local distributors, about 90% of the local films released in movie theaters in China in 2011 lost money; only about 10% of the films made a profit or broke even. This record is worse than the profit rate in 2010, which was around 20%.

China’s State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) is yet to announce the official 2011 statistics. However, according to SARFT’s monthly figures up until the end of November, as well as ScreenDaily’s in-house box office research, the foreign film box office may very likely, for the first time in nine years, out-perform local box office takings.

At the exhibition sector, industry experts say that there are more than 2,600 new screens increased in 2011, making the total screen number more than 9,000.

China Top 10 films 2011

1. Transformers: Dark of the Moon - $172.86m (RMB1.089bn)

2. Kung Fu Panda 2 - $96.82m (RMB610m)

3. The Flowers of War - $92.83m (RMB488m) *

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Ties - $73.81m (RMB465m)

5. Flying Swords of the Dragon Gate - $68.89m (RMB434m) *

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Harrows Part II - $65.08m (RMB410m)

7. Beginning of the Great Revival - $64.92m (RMB409m)

8. Love is Not Blind - $55.71m (RMB351)

9. The Smurfs - $41.27m (RMB260m)

10. Fast and Furious 5 - $40.63m (RMB256m)

* Still on release

Sources: SARFT and Screen International