Market Insight

Record first half for box office in North America and China

July 03, 2018

Charlotte Jones Charlotte Jones Associate Director/Principal Analyst, Cinema, OMDIA

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Total box office revenue in North America reached $6.18bn in H1 2018, marking a large 9.6% increase on the same total in 2017. The H1 2018 tally is the largest on record (in revenue terms) and the first time box office for H1 has eclipsed the $6 billion barrier. In fact, in revenue terms, total takings for the first six months of 2018 actually exceeded the total annual box office generated some 20 years prior ($5.8bn in 1997). 

A very strong second quarter was the main contributor to the record result as Q2 revenue rose by 23.0% year on year to hit $3.3 billion which equates to a new record for any quarter at the North American box office and only the third time a quarter (always Q2) has reached $3 billion (also in 2013 and 2015). The Q2 record came in contrast with a flat first quarter, which actually declined by 1.8%. Q2 was boosted equally by April, May and June, which finished 25.8%, 24.0% and 20.0% up respectively year on year. June recorded the highest gross of 2018 to date with $1.26 billion and a new record for that month.

Disney’s Black Panther was the highest grossing title with $699.8 as at H1 2018, closely followed by Avenger’s Infinity War, another Disney title on $672.6m and featuring as one of only eight titles to have ever surpassed $600m at the domestic box office. Moreover, the titles are now ranked as third and fourth on the box office all-time leader board, behind only Avatar and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The trend shows how the box office is becoming increasingly dependent on the success of a handful of major titles, which have the ability to dramatically lift a given year,

Black Panther was actually released back in February helping also push that month to a new record and the first time February grosses had hit over $1 billion. However, the other five titles in the top six of the year to date were all released in Q2 including the aforementioned Avenger’s title plus major hits: Deadpool 2 (Fox), Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Universal) and Solo: A Star Wars Story (Disney) - all grossing over $200m to date.


In China, the first half box office also broke new records in 2018 with total revenue equating to RMB 31.9 billion ($4.7 billion) marking a very strong 39.0% increase year on year. The record total was driven by a very strong February with a total gross of $1.5 billion, the largest on record for a single territory. The boost was due to the release of two very popular local titles in Operation Red Sea and Detective China Town 2 which both grossed over $500m, as two of only four titles ever to achieve that feat in China. The most successful title of all time is local hit Wolf Warrior 2 released in 2017 ($854.2m).

Due to the February effect, the final total of Q1 2018 actually exceeded the US box office for the first time on record. The runaway success of the first quarter in China was not matched by the second quarter, however, which fell 7.0% year on year with both April and June finishing lower. May, however, was a stronger month with total revenues rising 11.3% to reach RMB 3.9 billion ($639 million).

Due to the very strong first quarter result, the running total for 2018 in China has already exceeded the total box office reached in 2014 (RMB 29.6 billion/$4.8 billion). All in all, the first half box office tally now equates to a 17.9% increase over 2017’s total and follows on from a  smaller 10.8% increase in the same period one year prior. While unwavering box office growth can no longer be taken for granted in China, following the slower than expected growth in 2016 of just 3%, the fact that local titles are helping to propel the box office fortunes once more in 2018 will help complement a stronger year overall.

China reached 55,623 screens at H1 2018 up from 50,776 at end 2017, the equivalent of just under 5,000 net new screens in the first six months alone and continuing the trend for unprecedented levels of new screen construction. 

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