Iron Man 3

A poster for "Iron Man 3" at a promotional event in the Forbidden City in Beijing. (Wang Zhaowang/AFP / April 6, 2013)

BEIJING -- Strong showings by domestic films drove China's box office in the first half of 2013 to $1.79 billion, up 36% year on year, official statistics released Wednesday showed.

Domestic films accounted for 62% of ticket sales, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television said. Imports accounted for 38% of sales, or about $690 million, representing a drop of 21% compared with the first half of 2012.

At this pace, China's box office could top $4 billion for the year, since second half revenues typically exceed the first half. China's box office revenues reached $2.7 billion in 2012, making the market the world's second largest, passing Japan.

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The North American market remains the leader by far, with $10.8 billion in revenue last year.

Domestic films performed extremely poorly in China in the first half of 2012, accounting for 36% of box office.

Since then, their performance has improved, thanks in part to the authorities' decision to schedule some imports in head-to-head competition slots and deny prime holiday release times to others.

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The top three films in the first half of 2013 were: "Journey to the West," a Chinese adventure comedy, with $208 million; "Iron Man 3," which featured a couple of extra scenes with Chinese actors, with $125 million; and the Chinese romantic comedy "So Young," at $120 million.

Rounding out the top 10 were "American Dreams in China," "Finding Mr. Right," "The Croods," "Skyfall," "Star Trek: Into Darkness," "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" and "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."  

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