Asia’s box office for movies is now bigger than America’s

China can’t get enough of blockbusters like Transformers
China can’t get enough of blockbusters like Transformers
Image: Paramount Pictures
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It wasn’t a great year at the US box office last year. Fortunately for the film business, international markets picked up the slack—particularly in Asia, and specifically, China.

Box office revenue from key Asian markets, led by China, eclipsed those in the US and Canada, according to new figures released by the Motion Picture Association of America(pdf).

The box office in the biggest Asian markets, namely China, Japan, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia totaled $10.5 billion last year, just ahead of the $10.4 billion achieved in the US and Canada.

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Globally, the box office eked out a 1% increase to hit $36.4 billion. International markets, including Europe and Latin America, have for many years now, been a much bigger source of box office receipts than the US and Canada. But 2014 was the first time the biggest Asian markets eclipsed the US and Canada, an MPAA spokesperson confirmed to Quartz.

China is by far the biggest driver of this growth. The box office hit $4.8 billion in China last year–the first market outside the US to surpass $4 billion–and an increase of 34% on 2013. By contrast, the box office in the US and Canada shrank by 5% last year.

To be clear, these figures refer to all movies, i.e. not jut those made by the big Hollywood studios, but also domestic ones. That said, the highest grossing movie in China last year (and ever) was a Hollywood film. Transformers: Age of Extinction.

The movie market is absolutely booming in China, yet another example of how its rising middle class is becoming an increasingly important purchasing cohort. It is also changing the way movies are made. As I’ve written previously, this globalization dynamic is killing off the Hollywood comedy, which typically does not translate well to global audiences. Blockbusters, and sequels often do, however. Particularly ones, like the latest Transformers installment, that cleverly include Chinese actors and settings.

Whether Asian markets continue to surpass the US (and Canada) remains to be seen.The Hollywood Reporter says the Chinese box office alone actually surpassed the US in February. Yet with a promising summer of high profile releases ahead, many are tipping a rebound in the US this year. Either way, the globalization of movies, like everything else, appears inexorable.