The Domestic market has reclaimed its position at the #1 global box office market from China.

According to latest figures from our partners at Comscore Movies, the Domestic market hit $2.461 billion through Sunday (May 22), overtaking reported China figures ($2.458bn) for the first time in 2022.

This marks a major and important marker in the recovery of the Domestic market, although it also shows the ongoing struggles in a Chinese market where significant portions of the cinema-sector remain closed due to local Covid-19 policies.

The Domestic market’s road to this point in 2022 has been paved with superhero success! The top performing title of the year to date is THE BATMAN ($365.8m), coming in ahead of DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS ($335.8m) and 2021 holdover SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME ($228.4m within 2022). The top five is rounded out by SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 ($178.9m) and UNCHARTED ($145.3m), while an impressive gross for Sandra Bullock comedy THE LOST CITY ($97.35m) puts it just outside the top 5.

In contrast the Chinese top 5 is entirely taken up by local releases, led by THE BATTLE AT LAKE CHANGJIN II ($635.7m). This is followed by three fellow Chinese New Year openers: TOO COOL TO KILL ($410.7m), NICE VIEW ($213.2m), and animation BOONIE BEARS: BACK TO EARTH ($152.4m). The top performing import title so far in 2022 has been FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE at #12 ($27.5m).

China claimed the global #1 title in 2020, finishing the year with a $3 billion box office total that surpassed the Domestic market’s $2.2 billion. This came despite the Chinese market being completely closed for a full six months from late January until July 20 of that year. The market saw a significantly faster and stronger recovery followings its first lockdown, while the Domestic market returned more slowly and, due to different state policies, more piecemeal.

China repeated at the top in 2021, coming out of the gate fast in Q1 including delivering the biggest single-month box office on record in February 2021 and a record Chinese New Year week. The Asian major finished 2021 with $7.3 billion, easily out-performing the Domestic market’s $4.5 billion.

However, the Domestic market was riding a high at the start of 2022, coming off its biggest pandemic release in mid-December: SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. That film had finally driven the Domestic market to achieve the Stage 5 marker on Gower Street’s 5-stage Blueprint To Recovery (equivalent to a box office play-week in the top quartile of 2018-2019 play-weeks), something China had first done way back in August of 2020!

China has struggled more in the early part of 2022, both with rising Covid cases leading to cinema closures and a lack of major import releases to support the strong local roster. Currently nearly 30% of cinemas by 2018-2019 market share remain closed in China, with 70.6% operating this past weekend. In mid-April that figure dropped below 50% for the first time since the market’s July 2020 re-opening, having hit a peak of 94.4% in mid-February 2021 for Chinese New Year. Top performing Domestic titles either haven’t received a release in China, (e.g. DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS, 2021 holdover SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME), or have failed to replicate Domestic and International success, (e.g. THE BATMAN $25.25m, UNCHARTED $21.85m).\\

China is one of just a handful of markets currently tracking behind 2021 (-37%), while the Domestic market is running 337% ahead of the same stage in 2021 and the International market (excluding China) is 170% ahead. Globally business is running approximately $3.66 billion ahead of 2021 at an estimated $9.84 billion, with Domestic $1.89 billion up, International (excluding China) $3.16 billion up, but China showing a near $1.4 billion deficit.

Global business is approximately 40% ($6.6bn) behind the average of the last three pre-pandemic years at the same stage. The Domestic market is 44% behind the three-year average, International (excluding China) 39% behind, and China 38% behind. However, both the Domestic and International markets are making week-by-week slow-but-steady in-roads into reducing their deficits, while China’s is growing on a weekly basis. China had been marginally ahead of the three-year average (+1%) at the end of February, compared to a 57% deficit seen in the Domestic market and a 45% deficit across the International (excluding China) market.