The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

When people around the world go to the movies most

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Americans go on Christmas (Dec. 25), the Chinese on Chinese New Year (Feb. 19) and the French on Labor Day weekend (May 1). The world watches many of the same movies at the theater — just usually not at the same time of the year.

Revenue data gathered by research firm Rentrak shows that a long New Year’s holiday draws out Russia’s revelers, the late April and early May “Golden Week” holiday is a popular movie-going time for the Japanese, and the November and December rollout of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I” and the final Hobbit movie lured Australian and Germans to the cinema.

While fewer Americans went to the movies in 2014 than in the past two decades, the rest of the world is rushing to theaters. In 2013, worldwide revenue from motion pictures reached $35.9 billion as international markets blossomed, growing 33 percent since 2009.

In 2000, “Charlie’s Angels” was one of the first films released simultaneously around the world. But in recent years the international audience may see a film before its comes out in the U.S. "May Day [May 1] is a holiday throughout the world," Disney's Vice President of Distribution for Motion Pictures Dave Hollis told Moviefone to explain the early release of "The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3" overseas. Labor Day weekend remains one of the main times the French watch films.

Meanwhile in North America, studios are looking for unorthodox release dates to launch their movies. A calculated move to open the animated “The LEGO movie” in February paid off.

A market hotly pursued by Hollywood is China, the first country outside the U.S. to pass $3 billion in receipts in a year. The seven-day National Day holiday in October and China’s Valentine’s Day in August are fertile times to release pictures. But Chinese New Year has established itself as a new box office season.

“That’s why this year we see an extremely crowded Chinese new year season,” said Nancy Wu, North America director for EntGroup, which tracks the Chinese box office. Several large Chinese films are expected to open at the start of the Year of the Goat, including “Where are we going, Dad? 2” and “Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal.” Though China has raised the annual limit on the number of foreign movies that can be shown in Chinese theaters, there is often a delay between release in the U.S. and China that can cost American studios.

Buoyed by the advantages of a large domestic market, China’s homegrown film industry has an opportunity to someday travel outside its borders, as South Korean filmmakers have done. However, South Korea’s film industry only flourished artistically after the government democratized and stepped back from its film censorship, according to ChinaFile editor Jonathan Landreth. Neither is likely to happen in China anytime soon.