There's no business like the movie business in China, where box-office revenues jumped dramatically last year.
The Los Angeles Times reports that China's movie box office topped out at a record $3.6-billion (U.S.) in 2013, an increase of roughly 27 per cent over the previous year. And while Chinese films earned the lion's share of the take, Hollywood films made their presence felt in the top 10.
According to the analysis firms Artisan Gateway and EntGroup, seven of the 10 highest-grossing movies in 2013 were of Chinese origin.
Topping the list was the raucous action-comedy Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, which earned $207-million.
And in second place? Iron Man 3 – the highest-grossing film of 2013 at the U.S. box office – which earned $124-million in China. The other two Hollywood movies in the top 10 were Pacific Rim and Gravity.
Domestic movies that ranked high include the frothy college-themed romance So Young, youth comedy American Dreams in China and romantic comedy Finding Mr. Right.
In the past decade, China's box office has expanded to become the second-largest on the planet, finishing behind the United States.
Box-office revenues in China are now 10 times the volume of 2006, but still roughly one-third the estimated $10.9-billion of U.S. domestic box office for 2013.
Yet China's population is roughly three times that of the United States, which bodes well for future growth. The country has been building multiplex theatres across the country at record speed and is expected to end 2014 with 18,000 screens (less than half the U.S. tally).
"Audiences increasingly hail from cities and towns smaller than Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen," Chinese film critic Raymond Zhou said. "The aspiration and aesthetics of this demographic form the bedrock of China's market, and they have their own tastes and quirks. …
"They do not have any patience for art-house fare," he said, adding that 2013 will be remembered for "the spectacular takeoff of China's film market," but will also "go down in history as the year bad movies ruled."