3 Companies That Will Benefit From China's Box Office Boom

Analysts expect Chinese box office revenue to surpass that of the U.S. in three years, and double it eight years later. Combine that with a booming middle class and urban population, and that makes these companies winning investments.

May 9, 2014 at 1:11PM

According to analysts, box-office growth in the United States has remained relatively steady over the past 10 years. In the meantime Chinese box office revenues have ramped up over 3,500% in the past decade, according to research by the group at ChinaFilmBiz.com, and expectations call for these revenues to stay on that path for the decade to come.

For U.S. investors who are looking to get in on this Chinese media growth, Disney (NYSE:DIS), DreamWorks (NASDAQ:DWA), and Imax (NYSE:IMAX) are three companies set to gain from this market in the coming years. Here are three charts that prove that this market is bringing incredible growth and show how these companies are positioning themselves to lead this profitable market.

Chart No. 1: Over 3,500% growth in the last decade

China Vs N America Box Office Growth
Source: ChinaFilmBiz.com

The Chinese film and media industry is booming. PricewaterhouseCoopers projects that the industry will be worth $6.49 billion in 2017. That would double its $3.26 billion value in 2012. That's why these analysts forecast that China will become the largest film and media market in the world in the next few years. Companies like Disney and DreamWorks have huge opportunities if they can win over the hearts, and eyeballs, of local consumers. Both companies are forming partnerships in China to ensure that they have on-the-ground operations that will allow them to be the best entertainment providers in this growing market.

DreamWorks has partnered with Shanghai Media Group and three other local entertainment companies to create Oriental Dreamworks, a joint venture in which DreamWorks Animation holds a 45% stake. The group already has important projects in development such as Kung Fu Panda 3. Disney has also partnered with Shanghai Media Group, as well as others, to create ventures that will help the company make content specifically for the Chinese market as well. In fact, Disney has even partnered with the Chinese government to promote animation and media development in the country. 

Chart No. 2: Equal by 2017, and double by 2025

 Projected B O China Vs N Am Thru
Source: ChinaFilmBiz.com

By 2017, Chinese box office revenues will surpass those of the U.S, and double them by 2025. With all of these new theater-goers, it's not only the media companies that are winning. Imax has also made big bets on China. Imax's global expansion ramped up in 2013, with 112 new theater systems installed in 23 different countries. However, China has become the company's biggest target market. Recently, Imax sold a 20% stake of Imax China to a Chinese private equity firm for $80 million.

CEO Richard Gelfond said that "At this juncture, it makes sense to bring in Chinese investors to help us better address local market dynamics and further optimize our business in China, including both our core theatre business as well as new business initiatives."

Imax has been busy making deals in China already. Dalian Wanda Group is a real estate and investment company in China, and is the largest theater operator in China. Its CEO, Wang Jianlin, seeks to build the "Hollywood of China," with an USD $8.2 billion (about RMB 50 billion) investment to build a 10,000 square-foot main studio, 19 smaller studios, a full theme park, and most importantly, an entire Imax research center just for researching and enhancing the technology and performance of the giant-screen technology. Imax has inked another deal with the same group to build 210 large-format theaters in China by 2021. This is in addition to a deal with a South Korean company to build 30 more giant screens in China and five in South Korea. 

Chart No. 3: Millions of reasons to be excited about mass-market consumers

Magnitude Of Chinas Middle Class Growth Is Transforming The Nation
Source: McKinsey Research Group

An expanding middle class, especially an upper middle class, is a bullish sign for leisure and entertainment companies that depend on Chinese families having discretionary income that they can spend at the movies or on media-themed products. Not only will the rise in Chinese middle class consumers drive more leisure spending, the transition occurring as citizens move to the major cities will make it easier for companies to bring more and more consumers to a central location, such as a theme park.

Both Disney and DreamWorks have decided to take their media empires one step further in China, off of the screens and into theme parks. Disney will be the first to open its Chinese park. The company plans to open Disneyland Shanghai, the first of its resorts in mainland China, in 2015. DreamWorks has countered with the development of a $3.1 billion park in Shanghai, which is still a few years away from an expected opening. 

Shanghai Disneyworld Via Cnn
Photo: Disney

Foolish investment takeaway: How to play this Chinese market
This vastly growing Chinese media industry, which should double that of the U.S. in 11 years, is spurred by hundreds of millions of consumers who now have increased discretionary income and it is bound to make a lot of money for savvy investors. Disney, DreamWorks, and Imax are aggressively pursuing this market. While there is sure to be competition both locally and internationally, the partnering and brand-building that these companies have already done in China should pay off over the next few years.

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Bradley Seth McNew owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends DreamWorks Animation and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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