China's box office receipts totaled $1.5 billion in 2010 and the number of screens is expected to double again by 2015, The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.
"China's cinema industry is practically going from two tin cans and string to an iPhone 4 in one fell swoop," Rance Pow, president of Artisan Gateway, an entertainment consulting firm, told the newspaper.
Film fans used to sit on whatever was available while an itinerant cinema operator strung up a canvas screen, set up some tinny speakers and projected a grainy movie into the open air, the Times noted.
But state-of-the-art theaters are now appearing across China and not just in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but also in outposts like Shengzhou in central Zhejiang province.
The proliferation of new movie theaters is paid for by the relative affluence of some Chinese workers willing to pay a premium for better sound, picture and comfort, the Times said. Tickets average about $5.
Even with the influx of new cinema houses, China's movie industry lags far behind North America where there are more than 40,000 screens and 2010 box office revenue totaled $10.6 billion.