Hollywood Films and China

Ira Villar
Posted on Oct 17, 2019

    Having worked in film production for at least a decade, I would always talk to my fellow co-workers and movie-lovers on set. One recent trend that we've been noticing in the past years is the increased globalization that can be seen in films. Almost every blockbuster nowadays spans multiple countries with a diverse cast from almost every race.  For my Shiny project, I wanted to focus on Hollywood's appeal with one of the fastest rising markets today, China. 

    The Shiny app can be found HERE while the Github repository for all my work can be found HERE. I used BoxOfficeMojo data sets for all time grosses and openings for Hollywood films; overseas, in China, and domestically. 

    What I noticed for the 2018 returns is that from the overseas gross, 28% (over 4 billion dollars) came from China. I feel this is pretty significant considering it's just one country versus the rest of the world(outside of the US of course). It helps that the number of screens in China increased from a little over 4 thousand in 2005 to a whopping 50,000 in 2017.  For further study, I also compared opening weekend numbers of the biggest movies by studio.

    China had low openings for the 'Star Wars' and 'Harry Potter' films. Where were the numbers coming from, then? It all made sense once I compared the opening weekends for Universal Studios. 


China had bigger opening weekends for 'The Fate of the Furious', 'Furious 7', and 'Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw'. My insight is that they were less likely to follow storied and on-going narratives when they could easily  watch self-contained action narratives. This trend can also be seen with bigger opening numbers for the last two 'Mission Impossible' films. Since 'The Mummy(2017)' also opened bigger, maybe big celebrity names like Tom Cruise also factor in their decision to catch a show.


I noticed a sharp rise between the years 2012 and 2015. The US Box office returns jumped from 6 to 7 billion dollars while the China Box office returns jumped from 320 million to 2.9 billion dollars. 

    Finally, I also created a search function to find specific film particulars. Here is an example with the recent adaptation of Ernest Cline's 2011 novel, 'Ready Player One'.    


The total worldwide gross was 582 million dollars. 76% of which were overseas numbers and nearly half of that from China alone. Once again this is a self-contained action adventure film that grossed nearly twice as much in China as US numbers. 

    Yes, in general (and as seen from the blue in the density plot here), US returns have a higher average. The numbers don't lie though. China is one of the fastest growing markets today and we can't deny that. In order to take advantage of that, Hollywood films have become more inclusive of other nations and cultures. If that's where we're going, then this is a trend we should all be in favor of.


"China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world."
- Napoleon Bonaparte

About Author

Ira Villar

Ira Villar

Ira is currently a Data Science Fellow at the NYC Data Science Academy. He has nearly a decade of experience in film production and coordinating. He also assisted with marketing and release for various films and television shows.
View all posts by Ira Villar >

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