China overtakes US as world’s biggest box office in 2020

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China has surpassed the US in movie ticket sales for the first time ever, making it the world’s biggest box office, according to new data.

Year-to-date movie ticket sales in China climbed to $1.99 billion on Sunday, topping the US total of $1.94 billion, according to Asian film consultancy data Artisan Gateway.

The gap is expected to widen by year’s end, as major Hollywood movie studios have pulled their big budget holiday releases, such as the new James Bond flick “No Time to Die” and the superhero flick “Black Widow,” starring Scarlett Johansson.

The US is still struggling to manage the spread of the coronavirus, causing movie theaters to operate at limited capacity and in some states, not at all. Meanwhile, China, which was the first country to be hit by the virus, has reportedly contained its contagion and has seen a rebound in moviegoing.

China’s tens of thousands of movie houses are operating at 75 percent capacity. During the recent weeklong National Day holiday, running Oct. 1 to Oct. 8, China’s cinemas sold a whopping $586 million worth of tickets, the report said.

According to ticket sales tracker Box Office Mojo, for the non-holiday weekend of Oct. 9- 11, China’s box office totaled $53.4 million, led by local blockbuster “My People, My Homeland,” which reeled in $42 million.

In the US, where around 80 percent of movie theaters are open at a capacity between 25 percent and 50 percent, Columbus Day weekend from Oct. 9 to Oct. 12, brought in a mere $8.2 million in sales, led by the kid-friendly comedy “The War with Grandpa” starring Robert DeNiro and Uma Thurman.

As a result, the pandemic has accelerated trends that analysts predicted were inevitable, namely that the world’s most populous country would one day top the global charts. The US had been the global box office’s center of gravity since the beginning of the motion picture business.

Although this year may be a disaster for the US box office, movie theaters got a pleasant surprise this weekend, when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said cinemas in the Empire State could reopen next weekend with a maximum of 50 people per screen.

While New York City was excluded from being allowed to reopen movie houses, exhibitors like AMC and Cinemark are hoping the Big Apple is not too far behind.

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