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Economy

China tops US as world's biggest film market in February

DALIAN, China -- China's film market surpassed that of the U.S. for the first time in February to become the world's largest, amid a busy Lunar New Year and hit domestic titles.

     In February, when the Lunar New Year break brings many Chinese to the movies, box-office revenue jumped 25% on the year to 4.05 billion yuan ($650 million), compared with an estimated $640 million for the U.S., according to Chinese research company Entgroup.

     More than 10 million moviegoers went to Chinese theaters on Feb. 19, New Year's Day of the Lunar calendar, when eight films were released. Box-office revenue set a one-day record at 360 million yuan. The total for February represented an all-time high on a monthly basis, beating the 3.63 billion yuan of July 2014, which saw the release of "Transformers: Age of Extinction."

     Chinese productions headed the list of February's best-attended films. "The Man from Macau II," starring Chow Yun-fat and distributed by Bona Film Group, took the top spot, followed by "Dragon Blade," starring Jackie Chan and produced by companies including Shanghai Film Group. Hollywood was represented at seventh and eighth place with "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1."

     Five of the top ten highest-grossing films worldwide in the last week of February were produced in China, although the Lunar New Year holiday played a significant role in their ticket sales. Chinese movies have grown more popular in China, based on box-office figures since the start of 2015, with revenue split 75% to 25% between domestic and foreign films.

     In fiscal 2014, Beijing-based film distributor Huayi Brothers Media's sales grew 19% to 2.38 billion yuan, while net profit climbed 52% to 898 million yuan, according to results released in late February. The expanding domestic market is giving Chinese film companies a boost.

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