Furious competition in China’s fast-growing film industry

Matthew Plowright

Vin Diesel in Furious 7

Furious 7, the latest installment of the popular car racing movie franchise, appears to have little direct relevance to China. Made by Universal Pictures and starring a host of American and British actors, it lacks a Chinese star or a set-piece chase through the streets of Shanghai.

Yet the film has broken all-time box-office records since its release in China in April, taking in almost $390m, underpinned by preferential distribution by state monopoly China Film Group, which put up a reported 10 per cent of the funding for the film.

This was higher than the $348m in box office revenue that the film accrued in North America, a further sign of China’s growing importance to the global film industry.

Total Chinese box-office takings hit Rmb29.6bn ($4.8bn) in 2014, up 31.3 per cent on 2013, and are expected to hit Rmb40bn in 2015, according to China Confidential, a research service from the Financial Times. Should current growth trends in China and North America continue, China is on course to overtake the US to become the world’s largest movie market by 2018.

Research by China Confidential points to the fact that going to the movies is becoming a central part of Chinese consumer culture. Despite the continued widespread proliferation of free and pirated film content in China, almost three-quarters of urban consumers surveyed say they regularly go to the cinema, with more than two-thirds of film watchers going to the cinema at least four times over the past year and 40 per cent going at least seven times.

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