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China box office tops North America for the first month ever

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For the first time ever in movie history, the monthly receipts at the Chinese box office surpassed those from North America.

China’s official Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday that for the month of February, the Chinese box office hit 6.87 billlion yuan, or about $1.05 billion, according to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. Even with the success of films like Deadpool and Kung Fu Panda 3, the North American box office came in around $790 million for the month. 

Much of China’s record-breaking February can be attributed to The Mermaid, a sci-fi rom-com from Kung Fu Hustle director Stephen Chow. After hitting theaters on Feb. 8, The Mermaid shattered Chinese box office records, pulling in about $484 million, according to Xinhua.

Both The Mermaid and fantasy film The Monkey King 2 — which earned about $177 million for the month — opened on Feb. 8, Lunar New Year’s Day and a holiday that always drives box office traffic in China. This time last year, the Chinese box office surpassed the U.S. box office for the first time (not including Canada). 

The Chinese box office is growing at an astonishing rate, and its total in February 2016 is up almost 70 percent over February two years ago. If it continues growing at that rate, it’s widely expected that China will overtake the U.S. in 2017 to become the biggest movie-going market in the world.