China’s domestic box office in 2016 finally saw its dramatic slowdown, grossing 45.7 billion yuan (US$6.5 billion), only up 3.73% from 2015 if calculated in Chinese money, but downward from 2015 if calculated in US money (this is because Chinese yuan depreciated quite a bit against US dollars in 2015). The industry talk about China capable of taking over the United States to become the largest film market in the world may quiet down for the time being. As Chinese economy slows down, we’ll probably never see the kind of dramatic growth we witnessed in the past several years or decade again.
Despite this slowdown, more cinemas and screens were added in 2016. Mainland China now has 41,179 professional screens in total, making it the world’s biggest theater owner.
The following is the list of the Top 10 Box Office Films of 2015 in China (in Chinese yuan/RMB; exchange rate: 1 US$=6.9 RMB):
1. The Mermaid (美人魚；d. Stephen Chow); box office: 3.4 billion yuan;
2. Zootopia (d. Byron Howard, Rich Moore); box office: 1.53 billion yuan;
3. Warcraft: The Beginning (d. Duncan Jones); box office: 1.47 billion yuan;
4. Captain America: Civil War (d. Anthony Russo, Joe Russo); box office: 1.25 billion yuan;
5. The Monkey King II (西游记之孙悟空三打白骨精；d. Cheang Pou-soi); box office: 1.2 billion yuan;
6. Operation Mekong (湄公河行动；d. Dante Lam); box office: 1.184 billion yuan;
7. From Vegas to Macau III (澳门风云3；d. Wong Jing, Andrew Lau); box office: 1.18 billion yuan;
8. Time Raiders (盗墓笔记；d. Daniel Lee); box office: 1.04 billion yuan;
9. Kung Fu Panda III (d. Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Alessandro Carloni); box office: 1.02 billion yuan;
10. The Jungle Book (d. Jon Favreau); box office: 979 million yuan.
Note that Zhang Yimou’s controversial new film The Great Wall starring Matt Damon, which was released in China on Dec. 15, 2016, did not make the list. As of December 31, 2016, it earned 978 million yuan, one million yuan shy of the 10th spot. It has so far passed the 1 billion yuan mark, however. The China-US co-production is scheduled to release in the US market on Feb. 17, 2017.