Weekend Top Five Remains Unchanged as New Releases Dry Up 

Mainland China’s box office slipped to a lowly $14.5 million over the past weekend, with no significant new films seeking to release during the country’s set-piece political events. The result was an unchanged top five chart.

Box office data for the Friday to Sunday period provided by consultancy Artisan Gateway showed patriotic rescue movie “Home Coming” topping the box office rankings for the fourth successive weekend. Its winning score was a lowly $7.9 million (RMB55.8 million). After four weeks on release, and thanks to a strong National Day Weekend debut, it has amassed $198 million (RMB1.40 billion), making it one of the top films of the year in China.

“Give Me Five” held on to second place in its seventh weekend on release with $2.0 million (RMB14.4 million). Since releasing on Sept. 9, 2022, it has accumulated $67 million.

Third place belonged to “Ordinary Hero,” which like “Homecoming” had been released in time for the National Day festivities. It earned $1.8 million over the latest weekend for a four-week cumulative of $25.9 million.

Chinese-made animation film “New Gods: Yang Jian,” which released as far back as Aug. 19, 2022, held fourth place with RMB4.7million (approximately $700,000). After nine weeks on release, it has amassed $77.6 million. Another animation franchise title, “New Happy Dad and Son 5: My Alien Friend” earned RMB3.3 million ($460,000) for a 23-day cumulative of $10.7 million.

Data recently published by China Central Television, a state-owned broadcaster, point to Chinese-produced films scoring increasingly well with their home audiences over the last decade. Big-budget patriotic films have become especially successful.

As this year’s data may be showing, the problem with the strategy of reliance on Chinese-patriotic tentpole movies (sometimes referred to as ‘main melody’ titles) is that these films tend to cluster their releases around peak holiday periods. That may have a cannibalization effect and appears to be leaving the periods in between increasingly fallow.

That would matter less if China were also allowing the import of foreign titles. But these too have dwindled to a trickle.

The CCTV data says that Chinese films enjoyed an 85% market share in 2021, a record figure in recent years.

But the 2022 trends suggest that Chinese films may be growing their share of a market that is now shrinking. Artisan Gateway calculates a year-to-date box office of $3.90 billion. That is down 34% compared with 2021 when China’s theatrical market was the biggest in the world.

China had more than 82,000 cinema screens in operation at the end of 2021, according to the CCTV stats. It is not clear that they are all necessary.

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