The End Credits On Box Office Dominance Are Rolling. China Storms Past U.S. In Movie Ticket Sales For 2020

A man wearing a face mask walks past a poster for the Disney movie "Mulan" at a movie theater in Beijing, on Sept. 11, 2020. The remake of “Mulan” struck all the right chords to be a hit in the key Chinese market. Disney cast beloved actresses Liu Yifei as Mulan and removed a popular dragon sidekick in the original to cater to Chinese tastes. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

You could already hear the inevitable, uh, tick-tock of time running down on North America’s movie attendance dominance. And Monday, earlier than most had anticipated, time ran out.

Thanks to the global pandemic and China’s head start on a return to relatively normal, North America has been passed in box office earnings–with the gap expected to widen as COVID-19 recovery remains a problem.

China vaulted to No. 1 for this year, according to the Hollywood Reporter, reaching $1.988 billion on Sunday, soaring past North America’s $1.937 billion, according to data from Artisan Gateway. 

The coronavirus outbreak had caused theaters to be closed for nearly six months. But most have now reopened, restrictions have eased and the government now allows 75% of seats to be sold. The question for the North American filmmaking business is becoming more “if” the industry recovers rather than “when” that will happen.

Major North American markets are still faced with shutdown theaters with no real optimism for the next couple of months. The summer and fall blockbusters didn’t happen. Big plans for films such as Marvel’s “Black Widow” and the James Bond film “No Time to Die” have been scuttled until at least early next year.

The weekend numbers in China, according to Variety, showed “My People, My Homeland” leading the way, adding $19.1 million for a $360 million cumulative score since its debut on Oct. 1. “Honest Thief,” a Liam Neeson action movie, topped the North American box office over the past ratings period with just $3.7 million, though that total is considered respectable these days.

North America led the way in 2019 with combined annual tickets sales of $11.4 billion, with China in second place at $9.2 billion.

Today, despite its box-office numbers hovering around a 75 percent decrease from 2019, China appears well ahead on the road to economic–and cinematic–recovery.

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