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Claus Mueller

Claus Mueller is  Senior New York Correspondent

New York City based Claus Mueller reviews film festivals and related issues and serves as a  senior editor for Society and Diplomatic Review.

As a professor emeritus he covered at Hunter College / CUNY social and media research and is an accredited member of the US State Department's Foreign Press Center.



The Chinese Film Market in 2023

US film box office revenues in China are declining and only two films from the US were among the top ten hits in China last year. The lion's share of the Chinese audiences seems to have shifted their preference to domestic films. Before the pandemic, it was expected that in any given year at least five US films would be among the top 10 movies in China. The available data from 2014-2018 confirms this. However, in 2019 only two US films achieved the same success. The same held true in 2021 and 2022. In 2023, there has been just a single US film thus far among the top ten. Of the top grossing 15 films in 2019, ten were made locally. In 2020 foreign film revenue in China had slipped to 16%.  With the abandonment of Xi’s zero covid policies and the embrace of domestic themes, the rapid expansion of the Chinese film industry in all sectors from production, theatrical distribution to streaming has resumed and expanded. Film tickets were also discounted by the Chinese government to encourage more theatergoing. Industry experts estimate that China will return as the largest global film market, a position it held several years ago, though other counties like the US, Korea, India, and France released more films in 2022 than the 240 productions from China.

Data from 2022 seems to indicate that mainland China is expanding its position among the most important film markets as expressed in tickets sold and screens operated. In India, 981 million tickets were sold, in China 709 million and in the US 699 million. China has approximately eighty two thousand (82,000) screens, as opposed to India’s eleven thousand (11,000), and the US’s forty thousand (40,000).  Richard Brody from the New Yorker listed for the first time two films from China among the best 2022 films, SATURDAY FICTION by Lou Ye and A NEW OLD PLAY by QIU Jiongjiong. Both productions, acclaimed in numerous film festivals, can be screened on YouTube and Amazon Prime. The YouTube streaming service, like Netflix and a dozen other services, carry many Chinese and Hong Kong films as well as television programs in Mandarin, Cantonese, subtitled in English, and other languages. Netflix received the best rating for quality of image and sound of streamed Chinese genre films. In that context, one must keep in mind that there is no Chinese film festival in the United States.

Part of that problem may be that the bond between the 5.2 million people of mainland China origin, according to the US Census Bureau, and their homeland, is not as strong as the link of other Asian groups with the countries they came from. Among those of Chinese origin in the US, only 20% consider returning to China, the lowest return desire share of all Asian groups. Ironically, when Chinese features are shown here in the US, they tend to draw large audiences in limited theatrical distribution though there are is little publicity for these films dem reaching beyond Chinese groups.


Claus Mueller, New York



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