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.


Reel China: U.S. Film Producers are engaging the Chinese [Distribution 175] – The Hollywood entertainment industry is seizing the opportunity of the untapped Chinese market to subsidize once reliable (but now collapsing) forms of revenue such as U.S. DVD sales. U.S. producers are now forming partnerships with Chinese production companies to bypass import restrictions on foreign films.
‘Big Bang Theory,’ other U.S. shows vanish from Chinese internet [Economics 87] – Online consumption of U.S. content has surged 41.9% amongst Chinese viewers through streaming services, drawing people away from Chinese government-controlled TV. To combat this, Chinese government unexplainably removed online programming such as ‘The Big Bang Theory’ with hopes of reclaiming traditional TV viewers. As a result, Chinese internet portals and U.S. studios fear the potential revenue loss from such government behavior.
Hollywood takes global view [Digital Media Marketing 252] – Despite U.S. box office fluctuation, the international box office continues to grow steadily. This shift caused a widespread perspective change in the fundamentals of Hollywood filmmaking and deal making. This newfound globality has caused Hollywood executives to rethink former marketing, co-production, development, casting, shooting, and 3D strategies.
The Cost of Movie Piracy [Economics 102] – China and Russia have the highest piracy rates at 90% and 79% respectively, compared to the U.S. at 7%, leading to an international motion picture industry loss of $18.2 billion in 2005. It is suspected that these towering piracy rates are due to local government restrictions on the number of foreign films released, leaving consumers to pirate content that is otherwise unobtainable.
Reel China: Film and Culture [Distribution 162] –Due to the strong performance of Hollywood films in the Chinese market, China has instated month-long blackout periods in which foreign films cannot be screened. U.S. films are pitted against each other for the Chinese box office’s available (non-blackout) dates remaining.
How China’s Homegrown Biz is Threatening Hollywood’s Payday [Attached] – Due to foreign film blackout periods, the growing popularity of internet content, and changing tastes of Chinese audiences, U.S. film studios must adapt to keep up with the booming local Chinese productions. U.S. studios have reacted to by establishing Chinese production/distribution partnerships to continue marketing films to Chinese audiences.
China Box Office Worth $5 Billion to Studios by 2017 [Attached] – The Chinese box office is estimated to be worth $5 billion by 2017, compared to today’s $2.2 billion. As the Chinese government promotes the creation of high-quality indigenous films, the regulation of foreign films is predicted to loosen. As regulation policies become more liberal, U.S. studios can further contribute to the skyrocketing Chinese marketplace.
‘Transformers’ Earning More in China than U.S. [Attached] – Paramount Pictures has collaborated with China Movie Media Group, China’s largest film distributor, in the release of ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ after intentionally adding Chinese elements to the film. Due to the Paramount/CMMG partnership ‘Transformers’ in China surpassed U.S. box office revenue in the first five days of release by $13.5 million.
China’s Alibaba, Youku Tudou Pact on Video Marketing [Attached] – Alibaba will provide big data and technology to Youku Tudou to support online video marketing techniques. The partnership’s goal is to sell merchandising that is featured in online videos by clicking on them without compromising video playback.
China to Require Permits for Foreign TV Shows Streamed Online [Attached] – The Chinese State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television has announced that foreign TV programming must now acquire permits to be broadcast on Chinese internet portals. This is suspected to be due to the Chinese crackdown on the broadcasting of immoral internet content (closely related to the recent ban of content with stars associated with sexual behavior). To counteract delayed releases due to the new policy, foreign content marketers plan to release full episodes for review by the SAPPRFT far in advance from intended release dates


Sitting here in Los Angeles, California, I often find myself fixated on one single deliberate thought of my role here at METAN – how to get into China. My usual Monday morning rants start off with a “what if we did this…” or “we need to do that…”, but never do my thoughts deviate far from what needs to be done in China (as evident in nearly all my past newsletters). However, China is a two-way street. And as much as we see this golden opportunity to and make a splash, Chinese companies see us nearly the same – how to get into the US market. Sure, Chinese brands have made their way outside of China to their Asian neighbors or even further west to pockets of Europe. But the United States – this is the major leagues for these companies. This is where they can make a real name for themselves outside of their four walls in China. Whether through an acquisition or just creating a better global marketing presence, Chinese brands making the leap to the US should not take anybody by surprise. The sagging US economy is struggling to pull itself out of this current recession while the booming China market is clearly on the uptick. Think of this as the ‘perfect storm’ for Chinese brands to enter the US market while the price is right. Still, there will inevitably be hurdles with Chinese brands entering the US market and expecting immediate (or any) results. In a recent article by the China Market Research Group, it reports several issues Chinese brands will face when entering the US market.


BRANDING It’s no mystery that Chinese companies have traditionally not been great at branding / marketing. Part of this can be attributed to China’s disconcerting view of brand value as a whole. Take a stroll in Beijing’s silk road market and the streets are lined with fake luxury bags, watches, and wallets. A $5,000 designer hand bag can be conveniently yours for a mere price of $5 if you haggle enough with the street merchant. Fundamentally, China business has operated under one rule of thumb – you compete on price. And when costs become the main driver in the business model, the idea of building value in a brand becomes low on the priority list. To succeed in the US, Chinese brands need to recognize (and quickly) that the long-term requires brand value and not just growing revenues at marginal profits.


One cultural difference I have grown to appreciate most about China is its attitude and focuses in the service sector. The premiums that typically come at a cost regarding service industries in the US are traditionally complimentary in China, and the consumer experience is a stark difference of night and day as a result. Many experts beleive it is due to the difference in population size, benefiting Chinese employers with a greater pool of candidates to select from when hiring for consumer-centric service industries. I can rattle off an endless list of examples, but here are just a few that come to mind to illustrate my point. When I go to a barber shop in the US, I miss the complimentary head and shoulder massage I’ve become so accustomed to at any similar location in China. I miss the complimentary hair wash, shampoo, and conditioning, that is fully included as a part of your experience. In the US, these bonus premium services would certainly come with a price tag, and most likely, a less than enthused employee. Going to a restaurant in the US? Good luck finding six beautiful greeters at the door like you would in China. Not to mention, the time restaurants spend to prepare a meal in China is remarkably faster than most regions of the US. In China, you rarely have to wait more than 10 minutes for your meal to be served after the waiter has taken your order. How about mandatory tips and sales tax? Don’t think so. Sure, you can, and should, tip based on your conscience like anywhere else, but a tip is perceived as a reward for a job well done, not an expectation. In comparison to the US, Chinese services have notably prioritized their clientele’s best interest and experiences, opposed to profitability. If Hollywood were to adopt these philosophies, the movie-goers experience in the US and China is limitless!


Western media coverage of China is typically biased towards the negative, and rarely portrays the country for what it really is. As someone who sees both sides of it on a regular basis, I’m stunned by how convoluted the Western portrayal is of Chinese life and culture can be. Sure, some of the topics the news reports about ARE very real… Pollution in Beijing is a legitimate public health concern, and the overt displays of materialism from China’s wealthy and social elite are nothing short of a vapid reality, But despite these negative aspects which pollute western airwaves, there is so much good in China that is unfortunately spun the wrong way (or neglected entirely) by Western media.
To begin, the communist party is NOT monolithic, it is in fact very divided via factions (liberals, conservatives, etc.), who fight for their ideas to be represented and implemented. The governing body is really communist only by name and title, and crises are handled cautiously and effectively.
Additionally, political correctness as the West knows it, is nonexistent in China. Many foreigners mistake this particular cultural aspect as racism, but it is not rooted in hatred of others, but being truthful about one’s feelings.
Also, Western media always overlooks China’s incredible social diversity. There is so much more to China than Beijing, Shanghai, and their respective populi. Western media has a tendency to put the spotlight on China’s wealthy elite with western cultural affinities, while leaving the rest of the population in the shadows. A significant amount of people live in rural China, which is rarely a topic of interest to western platforms. When rural China is in the news, it is almost always a negative story about the region’s uncomfortable living conditions. Although sanitation is an obvious concern, it is not littered with starvation and poverty the way the Western media portrays, and is filled with an immensely diverse population from all walks of life.


Without further ado, here is my third and final list of tips and tricks for people emigrating from the USA to Beijing. I hope it was of great help, and your travels are seamless.


- When commuting via Subway, avoid LINE 1 during rush hour, unless you wish to be packed like a can of sardines
- Rent, Internet, Cable, etc. bills are not paid in monthly installments in China. They are most commonly paid for three months at a time in advance, which can be a nasty surprise if you planned your finances on the monthly billing system popular in the U.S.
- Learn how to pronounce some popular Chinese dishes so you know what you’re ordering. Americanized Chinese food and Authentic Chinese food are worlds apart. Being familiar with a handful of – Chinese cuisine dishes will make eating much less stressful.
- If you are a regular coffee drinker, import it yourself. Premium coffee is not popular in China the way it is in the western world, and may be hard to find.
- If you’re a regular smoker, welcome to heaven. If you aren’t, prepare to constantly second-hand smoke. Smoking is legal almost everywhere here, including bars, restaurants, gyms, hotels, elevators, etc.
- If you miss your peers in the U.S., invest in a proper VPN Client to log into Facebook.
- Pollution masks with an authentic HEPA filter are invaluable, but a major hassle to travel with. The medical filter masks you see most people wearing are mostly ineffective.


Most importantly, begin actively learning the Mandarin language. It will make your life much easier here.
It should go without saying, but be friendly to your neighbors! Beijing is a big city founded on small neighborhoods and circles. Be prepared to people repeatedly who share a similar schedule to you.
You’re a foreigner, and people will stare at you. Be gracious about it, and smile back. Don’t be rude, and don’t feel outcasted. Enjoy the novelty of being different.
Bring your own pillow that suits your comfort level, like a soft down pillow. Unless, of course, you like cold, hard pillows. Also, get used to mattresses much firmer than whats typical in the U.S.
Bring your own boxers/briefs underwear and denim jeans! The rest of clothing is very cheap in China, and you won’t have any issue with that
Tooth paste, cosmetics, toothbrush, shaving supplies, body-wash, moisturizer, etc. are different here than the U.S. If you wish to have the comforts of home, bring your own!
Pollution is unavoidable, especially in Beijing. Don’t let the pollution bring you down. You WILL get an upset stomach and headaches as your body acclimates to new conditions, it’s almost unavoidable. Bring good cough and cold medicine.
The Winter season can be harsh. It is cold, smoggy, and very dry. Many people carry a portable moisturiser lotion to avoid painfully dry skin. Moisturizers from Chinese brands can be hit or miss, and many buy imported brands from other countries.


Currently, the country holding the largest number of box office hits is the United States. China is now on track to overtake the United States as the world’s largest film market by 2017. It has been estimated that China would not become the world’s largest film market until many years later but China’s film industry is growing faster than expected. Ticket sales are projected to reach $6.5 billion this year, up 35% from 2014. Ticket sales in the United States and Canada together last year were $10.4 billion.

There may have been a recent economic slowdown in China, but the country’s film market is growing even faster than anticipated. The growing market has made China increasingly attractive to the major Hollywood studios. Recently, Warner Bros announced a deal with China Media Capital, a state-backed investment fund, to produce Chinese-language movies. Most of the growth has come from the overwhelming popularity of Hollywood blockbusters such as “Jurassic World” and “Avengers” and China’s rapid growth of multiplex cinemas.

Not only has China been climbing the charts in the entertainment industry, it also has always had a few obstacles. With its mix of government-controlled independent companies and enterprises, the Chinese film industry looks very little like Hollywood.  Powerful state-owned entities such as China Film Group, which controls the importing and distribution of foreign films and produces its own. However, internet companies such as Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and others are getting in on the action as producers and distributors.

With all of these positive changes happening in China’s film industry amongst some of the country’s latest hardships, we can safely say that moviegoing tends to be recession-proof.  Despite the turmoil in China’s economy, people are still buying tickets to see movies at the box office.


As an American accustomed to cruising through the winding freeways of Los Angeles, adapting to the roads of China’s capital city was a rather daunting experience. For this reason, I have put together this guide of what to expect during your first time behind the wheel in the PRC.

First and foremost, China is one of the few developed that countries that does NOT permit visitors with foreign driver’s licenses to operate a motor vehicle. Despite this, you can apply in advance for a temporary driver’s license and exchange it for your actual driver’s license, alongside a sizeable amount of RMB.

Just like LA, Beijing traffic does not abide to the typical rush hour schedule, and traffic is to be expected any time of the day. Traffic at midnight, two in the afternoon on a weekday, or the peak of rush hour are near indistinguishable. To help clear the mass congestion, each Beijing-registered license plate cannot enter the roads inside the 5th Ring Road one day out of the working week, dictated by the last numeral on the license tag. Reminders of what tags are and are not permitted inside the 5th Ring Road are posted regularly on most local news outlets. Additionally, if your car is not registered in Beijing, you are not permitted to drive inside the 5th Ring Road between 06:00 to 09:00 and 16:00 to 20:00 any day of the week.

Traffic rules do exist, although they are seldom followed. Driving on the shoulder and disregarding pedestrians are common, if not normal. Which driver has the right of way is determined by defacto law based on the size and weight of your vehicle (don’t mess with trucks and busses), or more commonly whether or not whose front end got into an intersection first.

Despite this, the police and highway patrolmen are very strict about certain isses. In particular, Drunk Driving and Speeding is highly policed. The BAC limit in China is 0.03 ABV (the U.S. is 0.04 ABV), and random sobriety checkpoints are scattered throughout the city any night of the week. The sobriety checkpoints require everyone to blow into the same tube, albeit without their lips touching the straw.

There are speeding surveillance cameras everywhere. To be aware of their locations, download the phone app ‘Baidu’ to warn you if you are approaching a speed camera. Speeding tickets are received via SMS text message to the mobile phone number associated with your License Plate.

In conclusion… take the subway, taxi, bus, hire a driver opposed to driving in Beijing if you can. As stressful as driving in Beijing may be, it is still much better than the chaotic roads of the Chinese countryside. People drive unpredictably in all corners of the world, but even more so in Beijing. You just have to be alert at all times, and beware for aggressive drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and who-knows-what else.


Familiarizing yourself with a new city can prove to be difficult for anyone. For most Laowai (foreigners) who plan to spend an extended time in Beijing, the contrasting practices and cultures of this historic Chinese city will surely be overwhelming. After spending years dividing my time between Los Angeles and Beijing, I have picked up some personal tips and tricks along the way to ease the transition for newcomers. Here is the first post in a series of these tips and tricks, I hope it helps.


- Get a Beijing MetroCard and refill it often. This will save you a significant amount of money when traveling in the city.

- Learn how to pronounce Chinese locations in a Beijing accent for your taxi drivers.

- Subscribe to a VPN client for international internet access without Chinese restrictions. Learn how to operate the VPN on your computer and phone. Just a reminder: using a VPN uses extra cellular data on your phone, so be mindful.

- Familiarize yourself with the San-Li-Tun area, it is a lively place for younger crowds to congregate with many bars and restaurants.

- For clean water, the best bang-for-your-buck is NongFu Springs 4L Water Bottles. Additionally, boiled Tap Water works just fine.

- Learn the Chinese numerical hand signals of 1-10. This will always supersede the language barrier.

Pleco app is invaluable as a Mandarin/English dictionary and translator

- Download WeChat and Weibo apps (and maybe QQ, depending on your social group). They are the most popular social networks amongst Beijing locals.

- Never enter a black taxi. They are illegal taxi scams who prey on and extort the Laowai.