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China gets big-screen boost

News, 04 August 2016

BEIJING: The rapid growth of cinema revenues in China has slowed markedly this year, but that has not deterred Imax, the big screen cinema group, from partnering with Dalian Wanda, the media group, to build 150 new screens over the next six years.

Imax already has 335 screens in China and chief executive Rich Gelfond was confident the expansion would benefit film studios in both China and Hollywood, the Financial Times reported.

"In absolute numbers, China is the fastest growth market in the world," he said. "If you compare the number of visits that Chinese people make to the movies compared with other parts of the world, it's still a fairly embryonic market. So there's a lot of organic growth to get."

In the first half of 2016, however, box office revenue grew 21%, significantly less than the annual figures of 34% seen in the past three years and the slowest growth in five years.

And in July, traditionally the peak season for movie releases, cinema revenue was actually down 18% on the same month last year, according to government figures.

The South China Morning Post noted that several regulatory interventions were behind the fall, as distributors were pulled up for artificially inflating revenues by fabricating screenings and ticket sales and the government cracked down on speculative stock exchange investments that had been helping to create a movie market bubble.

But there was also "a lack of high quality movies for the first half of 2016," according to Zhu Ran, an analyst at GF Securities, who added that the outlook remained gloomy.

Liu Yan, an analyst with Southwest Securities, concurred that growth would be slower in future, adding that consumer preferences were shifting towards local content rather than Hollywood blockbusters.

"As China further opens up to the world, viewers have grown less curious towards foreign films," he said. "You can't attract them without more creative and relevant content."

Data sourced from Financial Times, South China Morning Post; additional content by Warc staff