BEIJING: China has often been tipped to become the world's largest cinema market, but official figures have shown that the Chinese box office suffered a dramatic slowdown in growth in 2016.

As reported by South China Morning Post, data from China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), has revealed that box office takings for 2016 grew just 3.7% year-on-year to 45.7bn yuan.

That compared with healthy growth of 48% in 2015, which marked the pinnacle of a five-year boom for China's big screen market.

Analysts attributed the steep slowdown to a poor crop of domestic films that turned into flops, including China's most expensive film, The Great Wall, which became a money loser despite starring Hollywood A-lister Matt Damon and Chinese stars Andy Lau and Jing Tian.

Other issues troubling the Chinese film market included the phasing out of ticket discounts as well an official crackdown on a form of box office fraud known as "ghost screenings", whereby film distributors fabricated ticket sales of blockbusters to create marketing buzz around particular films.

"A chief issue is the weak crop of films. There are very few blockbusters, unlike in 2015 when dark horses like Monster Hunt gave a boost to the phenomenal growth," said Angela Han, an analyst with China Merchants Securities.

"When you look at Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, you will find their movie markets also fared worse in 2016," she added.

However, after a successful year for Hollywood titles, including Walt Disney's Zootopia and Marvel Studios' Captain America: Civil War, others remain optimistic about the year ahead, especially as US films grow in popularity among Chinese cinema-goers.

Richard Huang, an analyst at Nomura, said: "This year we will see more exciting releases, such as The Fast and Furious 8, Transformers: The Last Knight as well as Pirates of the Caribbean."

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