According to screen growth patterns for 2016, the number of Chinese cinema screens will overtake the number in the US this week (16 November 2016). For the first time, the US will not be the world’s largest cinema market in terms of screen base.
According to analysis released by IHS Markit, at the end of September 2016, China had 39 194 cinema screens, compared to an estimated 40 475 in the US.
“The rate that China has been building cinema screens is very high,” says David Hancock, director of film and cinema analysis at IHS Technology. “In the first nine months of this year, China added just over 7 500 new cinema screens, continuing a trend seen over the past few years. China has been building cinema screens at a rate of over 10 a day for the past five years, rising to 27 a day this year.”
In 2003, China opened the market to overseas exhibition groups and laid the foundations for growing its cinema sector, although growth has come in mainly from domestic investment.
The same year, Chinese box office revenue was $121-million (about the same size as Austria’s box office revenue). In 2015, Chinese box office revenue topped $7-billion, showing growth of over 5 700%.
“This is an interesting story all the more remarkable for the rapidity of China’s ascent to the top spot in the market,” Hancock says.
Single-digit box office revenue growth in China during 2016 pushed back forecasts for when box office sales in China will overtake the US. However, China will overtake the US in box office revenue terms in 2019, according to IHS Technology forecasts.