China beats N. America in movie takings
A GOOFY comedy about mermaids and a fantasy sequel of a monkey king sent monthly receipts past US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) at China's box office, beating North America's takings for the first time.
Movie theatres in China raked in US$1.05 billion in ticket sales last month, according to figures released by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People's Republic of China on Tuesday.
This is about US$260 million more than what theatres in both the United States and Canada made in the same month.
Director Stephen Chow's The Mermaid outshone its rivals, with a staggering US$485 million in three weeks of opening, which coincided with the Chinese New Year festivities.
The story revolves around a mermaid sent to kill a man whose business is polluting the waters. But she ends up falling in love with him.
The Mermaid is now poised to become the first Chinese movie to cross US$500 million in China. When it does, it will join only six other films that have hit the same milestone in North America.
Last month also saw strong showings from The Monkey King 2, which grossed US$177 million, and From Vegas To Macau 3, which made US$166 million.
More than 192 million people went to the cinema in China last month.
While box office sales are usually calculated on a per weekend basis, the astonishing monthly takings reflect a growing interest in cinema among the country's middle class.
In fact, last month's total is almost 70 per cent higher than in February 2014.
China's movie turnstiles outspun the United States' for the first time in February last year.
The country is on track to surpass North America as the world's biggest movie market next year.