2016 Chinese Summer Blockbuster Box Office Review and Analysis

Now that the Summer Blockbuster season has ended, it’s important to analyze the greatest successes in the Chinese Box Office in 2016 to recognize emerging trends in what sells, what doesn’t, and what to look out for.
2016 was a massive year for the Chinese Box Office. We are only three-quarter’s into the fiscal year, and The Chinese B.O. is already populated with 12 of the top 40 highest grossing Chinese B.O. Grosses from 2016 alone. This means 37.5% of the top 40 highest grossing films in China were released in 2016. This number is only expected to rise in forthcoming years, with Hollywood seeking more and more interest in providing content to Chinese audiences.
These films include:
- #1 – The Mermaid ($3.391 Billion)
- #7 – Zootopia ($1.53 Billion)
- #8 – Warcraft ($1.472 Billion)
- #15 – Captain America: Civil War ($1.25 Billion)
- #16 – The Monkey King 2 ($1.2 Billion)
- #22 – Time Raiders ($1 Billion)
- #23 – Kung Fu Panda 3 ($1 Billion)
- #24 – The Jungle Book ($979 Million)
- #29 – Skiptrace ($889 Million)
- #35 – X:Men Apocaly[se ($803 Million)
- #36 – Book of Love ($787 Million)
Six of these films, including The Mermaid, The Monkey King 2, Kung Fu Panda 3, Time Raiders, Skiptrace, and Book of Love, were Chinese domestic productions associated with US-based studios via co-production treaties and agreements. The rise in Chinese/US co-productions increasing financial returns in the Chinese Box office provides the forecast for this trend to continue in the positive direction.

Why did some of these films succeed in China more than others?
- The Mermaid – The largest release in Chinese History, Hong-Kong comedy legend Stephen Chow purposefuly catered this action-comedy towards Chinese audiences
- Zootopia – Zootopia has maintained the highest overall viewer rating on Chinese Movie Rating website, Mtime, in 2016
- Warcraft – Released by Chinese conglomerate the Dalian Wanda Group, owners of Legendary Entertainment, Warcraft appealed to Asian video-game enthused audiences, where is grossed five times that of it’s US counterpart release
- Captain America: Civil War – The Russo Brothers are no strangers to Chinese audiences desired, and clearly recognize the mass appeal of the Marvel cinematic universe in China. They have even launched their own Chinese film Studio in 2016. When directing CA:CW, the Russo’s applied their knowledge of what Chinese audiences are desiring in the ever-popular Marvel film series.
- The Monkey King 2 – Considering it opened the same weekend as The Mermaid, The Monkey King 2’s Chinese Box Office Gross should be considered an overwhelming success. The Monkey King 2 is based on a Chinese classic, Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en, casting an enormous net for Chinese audiences to see a popular local story adapted on film
- Kung Fu Panda 3 – Don’t be confused, this is not the same Kung Fu Panda 3 that released in the US. That’s right. Dreamworks made two very different versions of the film. One by Dreamworks Animations for English Audiences, and another by Shanghai-based joint venture studio Oriental Dreamworks. An unconventional experiment by Dreamworks, but it paid off in spades.

Clearly, filmmakers are becoming more keen to what Chinese audiences crave, and what sells in the box office. Although 2016 is far from over, the trends of what works and what doesn’t are beginning to unfold before us, and now is the time for production studios to capitalize on this newly tapped market.