Slick big-budget Chinese films and perfectly timed releases drew audiences to the cinemas in droves during the first half of the year.

Domestic films accounted for 60 per cent or 19 billion yuan (US$2.85 billion) of the 32 billion yuan box office revenue in the first six months of the year, according to figures from Ent Group, which compiles industry data.

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During the same period last year, foreign films accounted for around 61 per cent of China’s box office or 16.7 billion yuan, compared to around 13 billion yuan this year.

Chinese films’ ticket sales also jumped 80 per cent year on year in the first half of 2018.

The top three highest grossing Chinese films during the period were all screened on February 16 – the first day after the Lunar New Year – a traditional golden period.

Operation Red Sea, Detective Chinatown 2 and Monster Hunt 2 made 3.6 billion yuan, 3.4 billion yuan and 2.2 billion yuan, respectively.

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“After a brief blip at the box office, China’s film industry is booming again,” said Gary Guo, head of A-share media and internet at HSBC Qianhai Securities. “Audiences are flocking to cinemas to watch a wider range of quality big-budget domestic films, which can now compete on level terms with the latest imported Hollywood blockbusters.”

China is also among the fastest-growing film markets in the world. And in May it overtook North America in ticket sales.

With around 900 million visits to cinemas across the country in the first six months this year, the country has long been a lucrative battle ground for Hollywood studios, including Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures that are behind blockbusters such as Ready Player One and Jurassic World.

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However, domestic productions have been increasingly eating into the share of foreign studios in recent years, with the increase helped not only by better quality of domestic films but also through their skilful use of simple storylines and dazzling action scenes – factors that have proved to be a big draw for film goers in China’s lower tier cities, said analysts.

For instance, Wolf Warrior 2, a patriotic action film that raked in US$870.3 million last year, became the highest grossing film ever in China with most of the viewers coming from lower tier cities.

“The number of viewers from third or lower tier cities has increased,” said analysts at Tianfeng Securities in a note on Monday, adding that overall box office contributions from audiences in these places accounted for 43 per cent of the overall revenues during the first half of the year.

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