The action had been taken to give the Zhang Yimou-directed “House of Flying Daggers” a boost at the local box office and was a new form of regulation compared to the foreign film quota, which had been in existence for much longer, said Cavender.
Naturally, the blackout serves to boost the performance of domestically produced films in the mainland market as competition from foreign titles is reduced.
Data from research firm EntGroup showed that local titles like “Wolf Warrior 2,” “The Founding of an Army” and “Brotherhood of Blades 2” dominated the Chinese box office in the week that ended on July 30. The only Hollywood film on the top-grossing list is “Despicable Me 3,” which had been released in China on July 7, likely before the blackout on foreign film releases began.
In comparison, five foreign films occupied the top-10 spots in the week that ended on June 25 — before the Hollywood blackout.
Success for domestically produced titles, however, is not guaranteed even when the foreign competition is removed.
The trend in historical box office records show that, when there is no ban in effect, the one or two foreign films released in China tend to absorb up to 90 percent of revenues from ticket sales during a given week, Cavender said. In comparison, when the blackout is enforced, several domestic films tend to share relatively even portions of the market.
The blackout is sometimes framed as an ideologically driven piece of regulation, but its existence is likely linked to more pragmatic thinking. That could include giving China-made films more of a chance to be seen, according to Felicia Chan, a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester.
“I’m not sure if ‘preventing too much Western influence’ is an argument any more at the Chinese box office, given the numbers Hollywood blockbusters are hitting in China … I suspect (the blackout) keeps the Chinese film industry buoyant, which then allows its players to have more negotiating power with Hollywood,” Chan added.