BEIJING, June 5 (Xinhua) -- China's box office sales in 2013 neared 21.8 billion yuan (3.6 billion U.S. dollars), up from 860 million yuan in 2002 when the sector became more commercialized, the country's film watchdog said on Thursday.
Domestic films raked in about 12.8 billion yuan last year, registering a year-on-year increase of 54.3 percent and accounting for 58.7 percent of mainland box office revenues, said Zhang Hongsen, head of the film bureau under the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.
This year, box office sales topped 10.02 billion yuan as of May 21, with domestic productions taking about 56 percent of the market share, according to Zhang.
Analysts estimate that China's film industry would pull in 28 billion yuan from ticket sales this year.
Of the top 10 titles up until May 21 this year, five were domestic, with "The Monkey King", an action-fantasy based on an ancient Chinese legend, taking the top spot with 1.04 billion yuan. It outperformed Hollywood blockbuster "Captain America 2", which raked in 718 million yuan.
However, it does not necessarily take a local blockbuster to match a Hollywood one. Low-budget Chinese movies were also winners last year.
"Finding Mr. Right" and "So Young" were huge successes, surpassing Hollywood blockbusters such as "Man of Steel" and "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey".
Chinese domestic productions have become more diversified, according to the film bureau. The box office success of thriller "Black Coal, Thin Ice" by Diao Yinan took in about 100 million yuan, and also raised the country's appeal in art films, which used to regularly fail at theaters.
Directors, including Zhang Yimou, are increasingly producing arthouse films. Zhang's romance "Coming Home" has pocketed more than 260 million yuan since it debuted on May 16.
The ballooning market, now the second largest in the world, was due largely to an increasing number of theaters and screens. As of April this year, there were 20,285 screens in the country, compared to 1,581 in 2002, according to Zhang. The number of theaters surged from 872 in 2002 to 4,545 in April.
The State Council, China's Cabinet, issued regulations in 2002 to promote development of the industry, making it more commercialized.
Private companies have led the way. Wanda Cinema Line with 1,292 screens made 3.16 billion yuan last year, ranking it first.
The Chinese film market will further expand as most screens are in big cities. The number of screens in counties accounted for only 30.2 percent. Analysts forecast a big increase in the number of screens in counties in the next few years.