Will China’s box of­fice re­cover?

Fac­tors that caused steep de­cline haven’t changed, re­forms seen as help­ful over­all

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By AMY HE in New York amyhe@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Af­ter sev­eral months of de­cline, China’s box of­fice could be hit­ting a plateau, but the fac­tors caus­ing the dip are still in place.

In­dus­try watch­ers have at­trib­uted the slide to a soft­en­ing econ­omy and a lack of ma­jor block­busters in re­lease, mak­ing it harder for China’s box of­fice to over­take the US’ next year as has pre­vi­ously been pre­dicted.

China’s movie ticket sales in July were down 15 per­cent, com­pound­ing a drop in the se­cond quar­ter, when to­tals were 4.6 per­cent less than those of the same pe­riod last year.

The slump has been par­tic­u­larly stark in con­trast to the 50 per­cent growth of last year, though ex­perts said that could be the rea­son why the slow­down has been hap­pen­ing.

“They’ve had a dozen straight years of 30 per­cent growth — it’s in­evitable that there will be a dip,” said Rob Cain, an Amer­i­can film pro­ducer and founder of Pa­cific Bridge Pic­tures.

Cain also blamed the dip on the lack of ma­jor movies that have been re­leased in the last sev­eral months. In the same pe­riod last year, three Hol­ly­wood block­busters raked in record ticket sales — Fu­ri­ous 7, Avengers: Age of Ul­tron and Juras­sic World — with do­mes­tic hits Mon­ster Hunt and Mon­key King: Hero is Back also in the mix.

“If you don’t have those big films that bring in the box of­fice, you’re go­ing to have prob­lems,” said Stan­ley Rosen, di­rec­tor of the East Asian Stud­ies Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

“One of the rea­sons why the Chi­nese box of­fice has done so well is you have a rel­a­tively small num­ber of films that have in­cred­i­ble box of­fice re­sults,” Rosen ex­plained. “That drives ev­ery­thing else. Most films don’t have much suc­cess at the box of­fice. If you don’t have the few films that are do­ing su­per business, you’re go­ing to have a drop-off.”

He also at­trib­uted the de­cline to the gov­ern­ment crack­ing down on ticket in­fla­tion and re­duc­ing pro­ducer sub­si­dies, which im­pacts the stock per­for­mance of the big film com­pa­nies.

There has been some cheat­ing and fi­nagling at the box of­fice.” Stanly Rosen, di­rec­tor, East Asian Stud­ies, USC

Ob­servers call the crack­down on ticket in­fla­tion a step in the right di­rec­tion as box of­fice num­bers will start to re­flect a more ac­cu­rate pic­ture of cus­tomer con­sump­tion.

Ear­lier this year, al­le­ga­tions of fraud arose when the dis­trib­u­tor of Ip Man 3 was ac­cused of bulk-buy­ing tick­ets to in­flate the movie’s num­bers.

Last fall, the Chi­nese State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Press, Pub­li­ca­tion, Ra­dio, Film and Tele­vi­sion said it would black­list wrong­do­ers if they vi­o­lated reg­u­la­tions on ticket sales.

“There has been some cheat­ing and fi­nagling at the box of­fice, some of which has been very clearly dis­cov­ered,” Rosen said.

Aynne Kokas, me­dia stud­ies pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia, said that the ex­plo­sive growth of the­aters around China — which is what led to huge growth at the box of­fice to be­gin with — may have also hit its peak.

“There is less struc­tural like­li­hood of get­ting 30 to 40 per­cent an­nual growth be­cause there isn’t the ex­po­nen­tial in­crease in the num­ber of the­aters,” she said.

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