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China box office: Growth slows in first half of 2016 but still up 21%

China box office: Growth slows in first half of 2016 but still up 21%
'Zootopia' (Walt Disney Co.)

China's box office crossed the $4 billion mark last week as local films returned to the top of the charts following a strong run of imports.

In the first half of 2016, China's box office is up 21% over 2015. Such a leap would be considered spectacular in the U.S., but it's lackluster compared with recent years in China, where box office in the last five years has grown at a blistering clip.

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In a bit of bad news for Hollywood, imported films have seen only 5% growth year-on-year, according to film industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway, rising from $1.7 billion in the first six months of 2015 to $1.8 billion in the first half of this year.

Domestic films have fared better, with receipts growing 33% from $1.5 billion to $2 billion in the first half, Artisan said.

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The first half of 2015 saw some spectacular grosses for Hollywood films, including "Furious 7," which took in $390 million for Universal; "Avengers: Age of Ultron," which earned $236 million for Marvel; and "Jurassic World," which clawed $208 million from Chinese film goers.

By comparison, 2016's biggest imported titles to date have been Disney's "Zootopia," with $235 million; and "Captain America: Civil War," with $192 million; Legendary's "Warcraft" earned $223 million, but the company is now owned by China's Dalian Wanda group.

Rance Pow, president of Artisan Gateway, said while growth has been slower, he didn't see it as a "conclusive change" in the general growth trend in the market, but a shift related to the titles that have been released so far in 2016 compared with 2015.

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In the seven days ending Sunday, "Cold War II," a Hong Kong police thriller, topped the box office with $46 million, Artisan said.

The Chinese animated film "Big Fish & Begonia," a.k.a. "Da Hai," which like "Cold War II" opened Friday, earned $35.2 million in its first three days in cinemas.

In third place for the week was the romance "Never Gone," starring Kris Wu and Liu Yifei. The film, adapted from Xin Yiwu's well-known novel, took in $27.5 million.

Rounding out the week were Paramount's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows," which has earned $51.5 million since its July 2 release, and Shanghai Mingyi Media's "Bounty Hunters," which has grossed $31 million since July 1, Artisan said.

Follow me on Twitter @JulieMakLAT.

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