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China box office grows nearly 30% thanks to home-grown films


China continued its explosive growth as one of the leading markets for movies in 2013.

The company’s overall box office grew  27 percent last year, increasing from $2.7 billion in 2012 to $3.6 billion, according to estimates. An official tally has yet to be released, but Chinese market researcher Ent Group and the website MTime have unveiled their projections.

Much of that growth is attributable to the country’s domestic offerings such as “Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons,” an action comedy that was the China’s top grossing film with a $207 million haul, and “So Young,” a romantic drama which generated $117 million at the box office.

Only three U.S. films broke into China’s box office top ten — “Iron Man 3″ ($121 million), “Pacific Rim” ($115 million) and “Gravity” ($73 million). That’s good news for Chinese regulators, who have been trying to limit the time that foreign films are in theaters in order to maximize the box office potential of the country’s home-grown products.

There are also lessons to be drawn for U.S. studios. “Pacific Rim,” drew inspiration from Manga and Anime in the design of its monsters and featured several Asian characters, while  ”Iron Man 3″ included Chinese actors and “Gravity” featured a key plot point involving a Chinese space station. These films took pains to incorporate Chinese elements into their production, which seemed to pay off.

Hollywood has great ambitions for China, which eclipsed Japan as the second largest market for films in 2012, but has also struggled with the country’s draconian censors and habit of scheduling the release of blockbuster films such as “Gravity” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” against one another as a way of limiting their profits.