- China’s box office dropped 36% in 2022 compared to the previous year.
- The region dealt with pandemic-related lockdowns.
- Chinese film officials also continued to reject many Hollywood releases, particularly Marvel movies.
The China box office beat out North America’s as the biggest in the world in 2020 and 2021. But it lost the crown in 2022.
China’s box office dropped 36% to $4.35 billion in 2022, according to Deadline, which cited figures that China’s Film Administration released to state media.
The 2022 North American box office rose to an estimated $7.5 billion, according to Comscore, a 64% increase from the previous year.
Pandemic-related restrictions hurt China’s theatrical industry in 2022 as it saw a surge in cases. For instance, in March, when “The Batman” opened in China, 40% of the region’s theaters were on lockdown. Needless to say, the movie flopped.
But the country’s film officials also blocked a number of Hollywood releases that could have given a much-needed boost to its box office, particularly Marvel movies.
No pandemic-era Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have been granted releases in China. The last MCU film to open there was “Spider-Man: Far From Home” in 2019, grossing $199 million. Earlier that year, “Avengers: Endgame” was even bigger, grossing $632 million.
But in 2022, films like “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” “Thor: Love and Thunder,” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” were denied entry into China. The movies grossed a combined $2.5 billion globally, but that figure could have been much higher had they opened in the region.
The movies were reportedly denied releases over political and cultural sensitivities. “Love and Thunder” and “Wakanda Forever” didn’t get past China’s film censors because of LGBTQ themes depicted in the movies. “Multiverse of Madness” faced criticism for a scene that featured a newspaper kiosk with the Epoch Times, which opposes the Chinese government.
To make matters worse for its box office, China also didn’t have a local smash hit last year, like it did in 2021 with “The Battle at Lake Changjin.” That film was 2021’s second highest-grossing movie globally, behind “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” and the vast majority of its box office came from China. The same can be said of “Hi, Mom,” another Chinese production and 2021’s third-largest movie.
A sequel to “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” titled “Water Gate Bridge,” opened in early 2022, but earned less than its predecessor.
Still, 85% of China’s 2022 ticket sales came from local productions. In its five-year film plan released in late 2021, the China Film Administration made it a goal for local films to account for at least 55% of the country’s box office in any given year. So China may continue to be more selective about the Hollywood films it grants release dates to, even if it means sacrificing some of its box office.