Consider this: Hollywood studios now make more money selling movie tickets in China than in any other market outside North America. Wanda, China’s largest real estate developer, bought AMC, the second-largest movie theater chain in the United States, and is also investing in making movies of its own. China is building theaters and adding movie screens at a rate not seen in the U.S. in decades, and Chinese audiences are ballooning.
DreamWorks Animation, which made the global blockbuster Kungfu Panda, is now making parts of the third of six planned installments, as well as other films, at its new joint-venture studio in Shanghai.
What does all this mean for Hollywood? A lot. Viewed through one lens, China is Hollywood’s savior: a new frontier, a place to mint fans and money. Viewed through another, it’s Hollywood’s nightmare: a country hostile to free expression where the state tries hard to maintain control of culture and wants to reap its own profits from its legions of filmgoers by keeping Hollywood on the outside looking in.
China, meanwhile, envies Hollywood as much for its cultural empire as for its financial clout.
The two sides need each other, want each other, and yet—despite last year’s landmarkfilm deal a decade in the making—neither side is ready to completely embrace the other. Will the story end with carnage or with the two sides riding off into the sunset together? Too soon to say. In the meantime, here are some numbers to give you a sense of what’s at stake.
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U.S. $2.8 billion
Gross in movie tickets sold in China in 2012
Gross in movie tickets sold in the U.S. in 2012
Gross in movie tickets sold at China’s box office in first nine months of 2013
Rise in gross value of movie tickets sold in China in the first nine months of 2013, up from the same period in 2012
Gross of Chinese-language films at China’s box office from January 1 to September 30, 2013
Market share of Chinese-language films at the box office from January through September 2013
Rise in box office sales grossed by Chinese-language films over the first nine months of 2012
Gross of films imported into China from January 1 to September 30, 2013
Market share of imported films in the first nine months of 2013
Decline in box office gross sales of tickets to imported movies in the first nine months of 2013
Gross of Avatar in China in 2009, making director James Cameron’s sci-fi film the all-time No. 1 movie in China
Grossed of Lost in Thailand in China in late 2012 and early 2013, making director Xu Zheng’s comedy the biggest Chinese-language hit of all time