There’ll soon be more movie theaters in China than in the US

The number of movie theaters in China will soon take over the number in the U.S., taking the title of world's largest movie market in terms of screen numbers.

At the end of September, China had 39,194 screens, compared with an estimated 40,475 in the U.S. China has been building new cinema screens at a rate of 27 screens a day this year.

At this rate, China is expected to overtake the U.S. by November 16, according to analysis by IHS Markit.

Movie screening in a cinema in China.
BJI | Getty Images

"The rate that China has been building cinema screens is very high," said David Hancock, director of film and cinema analysis at IHS Technology, in a press release.

"In the first nine months of this year, China added just over 7,500 new cinema screens, continuing a trend seen over the past few years. China has been building cinema screens at a rate of over 10 a day for the past five years, rising to 27 a day this year."

The growth of China's movie business has been rapid. In 2003, China's box office revenue totaled just $121 million. That year, China opened up the market to overseas exhibition groups and invested more heavily in the sector. By 2015, box office revenue had grown to more than $7 billion.

In terms of revenue, the Chinese market is still smaller than the U.S. According to consultancy PwC, the revenue will grow from $9.9 billion in 2016 to $11 billion in 2020.

However, IHS forecasts that China's box office revenue will top the U.S. market by 2019.

"This is an interesting story all the more remarkable for the rapidity of China's ascent to the top spot in the market," Hancock added.

This change will have a big impact on the film industry. Already, Hollywood film studios are catering for the Chinese market by changing characters and adding or deleting scenes.

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