China became the largest export market for European films in terms of admissions in 2017, the European Audiovisual Observatory said in a recent report carried by the People’s Daily.

In 2018, the number of cinema screens across the country hit 60,000, 3.6 times the 2012 figure, making the country the world’s first in regards to the sheer quantity of film screens, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Thanks to the increasing number of cinemas and larger audiences, European films are gaining popularity in China, the report said.

French science-fiction feature film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets became the most successful European film in China, taking 11.3 million admissions alone, the report revealed.

Capernaum, co-produced by Lebanon, France and the US was also a hit in China with overall box office takings of US$40 million.

Co-productions seem to be more well-received by audiences on both sides. Furthermore, the Chinese film industry can learn about mature marketing and sales mechanisms as well as film festivals from the European side, and embrace more opportunities to introduce Chinese films to the world, said analysts.

China has signed co-production agreements with over 10 European countries, including the UK, France and Spain.

Bikes, the first film co-produced by China and Spain, will debut soon, while another animated movie Dragonkeeper is in the progress of shooting in China and has an expected release date of 2021.

According to Variety,  a major report published by the China Film Association in partnership with the Motion Picture Association, showed the number of cinemas grew, but also that per screen attendance dropped.

Theatrical box office grew by 9% to US$9 billion, but China’s share of the global total only edged up from 21% in 2017 to 22% in 2018.

Liu Jia, film distributor and expert on the industry numbers, called 2018 “an up and down year.”

Her analysis of the CFA data showed China as now “firmly the number two film market in the world,” increasingly dominated by female audience tastes, and increasingly driven by word of mouth marketing.

Online ticketing is now dominant, accounting for 90% of movie tickets sold, and cinema operators are increasingly engaging in variable ticket pricing.

CFA data also showed the number of completed feature films rose from 798 in 2017 to 902 in 2018. The data also showed 398 Chinese films enjoyed theatrical release last year, a decrease from the 412 that played in 2017.

Liu said that the films enjoying the greatest success were those with subjects based on real events, such as “Operation Red Sea” and “Dying to Survive.”