Beijing — As the Chinese economy grows faster than ever before, more and more foreign cinemas are opening in their cities, creating a huge pool of potential audience and ticket buyers.
But as the nation’s film industry continues to shrink and the market for foreign films has become increasingly fragmented, the country is increasingly seeing moviegoers from overseas arrive in its cities to view films, a trend that could make it even more difficult for China to attract a diverse and global audience.
In 2017, there were 6,746 foreign-language movies shown in Beijing alone, according to the Ministry of Culture and Information.
The total number of foreign-owned theaters in Beijing hit a record of 2,892 in May, surpassing a previous record of 1,874 set in 2011.
The number of cinemas owned by foreign investors also shot up, reaching more than 1,000 in the first half of this year.
The foreign movie market in China has exploded in the last decade.
In 2016, foreign films accounted for more than half of the total domestic box office, according the Beijing Film Festival, which tracks domestic box offices.
But since then, the number of screens has fallen from more than 10,000 to around 5,000, and the number is expected to decline further, according a report published in June by the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The movie-industry group China Film Group, which represents the country’s leading cinema owners, said in a statement that the country has become “an increasingly important destination for foreign moviegoers.”
The number that come from outside China to see Chinese films has increased dramatically in recent years, according at the same time as the country was expanding its film industry to a level not seen in the past, the report noted.
“We’re going through a phase where foreign moviegoing is growing at a rapid pace, and at the moment, our domestic moviegoing capacity is less than half what it was before the 2008 financial crisis,” said Zhang Yuzhi, director of the China Institute of Cinematic Culture and Art, which researches film and entertainment in China.
“If you take into account the fact that the Chinese are making more movies than ever, and they are opening a lot more cinemas, that means the Chinese market is growing even more rapidly than before.”
For many overseas film enthusiasts, the idea of going to a foreign country to watch movies with Chinese actors and directors has been the last dream of their lives.
For example, the United States is home to more than one million foreign-made movies each year, according an analysis by Cinefantastique magazine.
And in some cases, they are even more popular than local cinema.
“A lot of films are directed in the U.S., they’re made by Americans, they’re from Americans, and their films are seen on American TV,” said Michael Schumacher, an independent film producer based in Washington, D.C., who specializes in Chinese movies.
“I’ve had films from American movies and Chinese movies, so I’ve seen them all over the world.”
But if foreign films are being made more often, that also means fewer theaters in China, which is limiting the number that can be seen by a wider audience.
“The moviegoing market in the United Kingdom and Ireland is much smaller than the U, and in Europe and the U