Meanwhile, several small-budget indie films swept the box office. Romantic comedy "Love is Not Blind" was adapted from a popular web-published novel that attracted young audiences. The film cost less than ten million yuan to produce but ended up making 350 million yuan (US$55.44 million).
Movie poster of "Love is Not Blind" [China.org.cn]
Taiwan-made "You Are the Apple of My Eye," also adapted from a popular Internet romantic novel, became the highest grossing Chinese film of all time in Hong Kong (HK$61.28 million) and the third highest grossing film (NT$420 million) of all time in Taiwan. The movie opened on the Chinese mainland this month.
Other profitable indies include horror film "Mysterious Island" with a production budget of 5 million yuan (US$792,100) and earned 90 million yuan (US$14.25 million) in return. Its success came from its targeted marketing toward the fanbase of idol singer and actress Yang Mi, who starred in the movie.
These indies helped diversify the movie spectrum and bring recognition to a younger generation of filmmakers, who contributed to 20 domestic films that each made over 100 million yuan in ticket sales in 2011.
The top dogs, however, remained Hollywood imports, and 17 of them in 2011 each raked in more than 100 million yuan (US$15.8 million) at box offices. This is compared to 10 in 2010 and 21 between the years 1994 – when China first began importing foreign films – and 2007.
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" was the big winner in Chinese box offices last year, earning 1.1 billion yuan (US$174 million) and becoming China's highest grossing film of the year and the second highest ever – behind only 2009's "Avatar," which grossed 1.32 billion yuan (US$209 million).
Chinese-friendly Hollywood-made "Kung Fu Panda 2" became the highest grossing animation ever in China. [China.org.cn]
The second highest grossing film in 2011 was "Kung Fu Panda 2," which smashed the chart with exceptional earnings of 610 million yuan (US$96 million).
Thanks to the strong performance of these foreign films and Chinese domestic films, China has become the world's fastest-growing and the third biggest movie market in the world behind the U.S. and Japan.
Despite the surging domestic market, Tong noted that overseas box office earnings of Chinese films were smaller compared to in 2010, scoring only 2.05 billion yuan (US$324 million) and indicating a stall in the industry's international competitiveness.
Back home, China's movie bureau is mulling measures to make going to the cinema more affordable, including setting a maximum ticket prices and increasing the number of discounted screenings.
In major Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, the ticket price for a blockbuster can surpass 100 yuan (US$16). According to Tong, the SARFT will issue a pricing guideline for cinemas in 2012, set a maximum price and urge cinemas to increase half-price ticket deals.
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