Approaching the end of the Year of the Pig, it's time to take a retrospective of Chinese cinema last year.
After shivering for most time in "a severe winter", China's film industry ended 2019 on a hopeful note.
With the number of screens in urban areas reaching 69,787 — more than any other country — the nation's box offices grossed 64.3 billion yuan ($9.23 billion), up by 5.4 percent from 2018, according to the China Film Administration, the sector's top regulator.
By comparison, North America — the world's largest movie market — grossed $11.3 billion, down by 4.8 percent year-on-year, according to movie data tracking website Box Office Mojo.
而与此同时，据电影网站Box Office Mojo的数据，作为全球最大电影市场的北美，去年电影总票房则为113亿美元，同比下降4.8%。
One highlight last year was the strong performance of Chinese blockbusters.
Of the 10 highest-grossing titles, eight were Chinese and the remaining two were Hollywood productions. In both 2017 and 2018, six of the top 10 films were made by Chinese studios.
In addition, 47 of the 88 movies that took more than 100 million yuan at the box office last year were made by Chinese filmmakers.
The top sleeper hit last year is Ne Zha, the directorial debut feature from animator Jiaozi. It unexpectedly rescued a flagging summer almost single-handedly, becoming the best-performing film last year and also the 11th highest-grossing film worldwide.
The smash hit gripped attentions of some foreign media outlets. For instance, British newspaper The Guardian depicts Ne Zha "like a malignant little Harry Potter", and reviews that "this PG fantasy animation from China features all the mild peril you'd expect from a family-rated movie — plus a smirking demon child…I enjoyed the jolt of strangeness delivered by this world of demons stalking the Earth."
Taking second place after Ne Zha in the highest-grossing slot, The Wandering Earth, a sci-fi blockbuster adapted from the eponymous novel by China's first Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin. It was the 12th top-earning film worldwide.
Along with director Ning Hao's Crazy Alien, and other Spring Festival blockbusters such as Han Han's directorial effort Pegasus, The Wandering Earth took the monthly gross in February to 11.2 billion yuan, the world's highest for a single month.
Enthusiastic filmgoers hailed The Wandering Earth as the start of "Year Zero" for Chinese sci-fi productions, a genre which had long struggled to earn recognition.
But a shadow was cast over their expectations when Shanghai Fortress flopped disastrously in August. One of the most famous online comments signs that the door leading to the rise of Chinese sci-fi films opened by The Wandering Earth is closed by Shanghai Fortress.
Liu Cixin responded to sci-fi fans during the 2019 Science Fiction Conference in Beijing. He said: "We should not easily draw conclusions by saying that the door for Chinese sci-fi films to thrive has been opened by just one movie. On the other hand, it's not fair to say that such a door has been closed by a single flop. It's not a rational expectation for the entire industry."
When the genres of animated and sci-fi films have their runaway hits, a group of talented directors has proved that "mainstream melody movies" can become blockbusters.
During the National Day holiday in October — one of the country's most lucrative box-office seasons — three films triggered unprecedented enthusiasm among moviegoers nationwide, propelling ticket sales for the week to 5.13 billion yuan, a year-on-year rise of nearly 136 percent.
The top earner among the three was My People, My Country, an anthology of seven short stories marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
The other two movies were The Captain, based on the true story of the Sichuan Airlines heroic pilot Liu Chuanjian, and The Climbers, which centers on Chinese mountaineers' ascents of Qomolangma, known in the West as Mount Everest, via the perilous north face in 1960 and 1975.
While Chinese filmmakers are energetically diversifying genres and themes, Hollywood is seemingly becoming more conservative, mainly focusing on sequels or spinoffs of lucrative franchises.
Avengers: Endgame, the 22nd title in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, took 4.25 billion yuan to rank as the third-highest-grossing film in China last year. The other import in the top 10 was Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, a spinoff of the Fast & Furious franchise, which ranked 10th.
Despite of the success of several Chinese blockbusters, domestic filmmakers are also worried about the polarization in market shares. Figures from the China Film Administration show that 1,037 movies were produced domestically last year. However, the top 10 took 28.57 billion yuan, or 44.4 percent of the box office tally for the entire year, indicating that a majority of filmmakers behind small- and middle-budget movies have been struggling to survive.