Hollywood and China: In Figures

Actor John Travolta of the U.S. gestures to fans as he arrives for the launch ceremony of the Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis on the outskirts of Qingdao, Shandong province September 22, 2013. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

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.

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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.

* * *

U.S. $2.8 billion

Gross in movie tickets sold in China in 2012

$10.8 billion

Gross in movie tickets sold in the U.S. in 2012

$2.7 billion

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

$1.6 billion

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

$1.1 billion

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

$182 million

Gross of Avatar in China in 2009, making director James Cameron’s sci-fi film the all-time No. 1 movie in China 

$197 million

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 

$280 million

Amount spent to produce Avatar 

$4.8 million

Amount spent to produce Lost in Thailand 

$750 million

Gross of Avatar in North America (Source: Box Office Mojo)


  Gross of Lost in Thailand in the United States in February 2013 

$54 million

Gross of Hero in the United States in 2004—making director Zhang Yimou’s film the all-time No. 1 Chinese-language movie released in the U.S. 


Gross of director Jia Zhangke's A Touch of Sin in the United States in autumn 2013 


Ticket sales for Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin in China, where the film has yet to gain censors’ approval for theatrical release


Number of years in a row (2007-2012) China’s box office gross jumped an annual compound rate of more than 47 percent


Number of films from mainland China nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award 


Number of films from Hong Kong nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award


Number of films from Taiwan nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award 


Number of Chinese-language films to win the Best Foreign Language Film Academy AwardCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, from Taiwan, by director Ang Lee in 2000 


Year when China’s box office will surpass that of the U.S., predicts IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond 


Year when China’s box office will double that of the U.S., Gelfond says 


Number of movie screens in the United States 


Number of Americans per movie screen in the United States


Number of movie screens in China


Number of Chinese per movie screen in China

$5 billion

Estimated  “value potential” (estimated box office gross plus possible ancillary revenue) in China by 2017 


Number of imported films China permits its theaters to screen each year, for which gross ticket sales are divided between the foreign copyright holder and the Chinese distributors


Number of imported revenue-sharing films allowed on China's silver screens before the U.S.-China Film Deal signed February 2012


Box office take grossed by an imported film shown in China that can flow back to its copyright holder abroad


Rough percentage studios outside China got from their theatrical releases inside China before Spring 2012


Years it took for U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators to reach an agreement over terms of U.S.-China film deal in 2012

$2.6 billion

Amount spent by real estate giant Dalian Wanda to acquire AMC Entertainment Holdings, the No. 2 U.S. cinema chain


Rank of Wanda among world’s largest cinema chains


Number of partners in Oriental DreamWorks: one American (DreamWorks Animation) and three Chinese (China Media Capital, Shanghai Media Group, and Shanghai Alliance Investment)

$350 million

Valuation of Oriental DreamWorks’ cash and intellectual capital assets 

$3 billion

Amount Oriental DreamWorks has slated for a cultural and entertainment district in Shanghai


Number of installments of the Kung Fu Panda series


Number of installments of the Kung Fu Panda film franchise that Oriental DreamWorks plans to make in China

This post first appeared at ChinaFile, an Atlantic partner site.