Cinema ticket sales in China have surpassed the US for the first time, making the country the world’s largest box office in 2020.

Box office sales in China have surpassed $1.98bn (£1.5bn) for 2020, exceeding the US total of $1.9bn as it continues to struggle amid COVID-19, according to Asian film industry consultancy Artisan Gateway.

The gap is expected to widen “considerably” by the end of the year, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Cinemas in China have remained open since August at 75 per cent seating capacity, while in the US many cinemas in major markets such as Los Angeles and New York City are still closed due to COVID-19, and attendance in reopened states is limited due to social distancing restrictions.

The Chinese market has been boosted by local blockbusters, two of which earned more than $150m each in one weekend earlier this month during China’s National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holiday period.

However, this past weekend’s box office in China fell 32 per cent from the same period last year.

The more than 70,000 cinemas in China closed in January and were shuttered for nearly six months. After briefly reopening more than 200 cinemas in Shanghai in March they were forced to shut again amid fears of a resurgence in Covid-19 cases.

In the US, cinema chains continue to struggle to remain open with AMC admitting it could go bust by the end of the year or by early 2021 if attendance figures remain low after reopening cinemas following their closure due to Covid-19.

Meanwhile, South Korean cinema exhibitor CJ CGV is set to close 30 per cent of screens over the next three years due to Covid-19.

The company said the move was an “extreme measure for survival” which also involves no longer opening new branches, selling off unprofitable properties, cutting down on weekday screenings and possibly doing away with them altogether in some cases.

CJ CGV’s sales have fallen almost 70 per cent compared to the same period last year due to the pandemic and said it plans to reduce the number of directly-run branches in its network of 119 sites by about 35 to 40.

CJ CGV will also be raising ticket prices from October 26, with ticket prices up KW1,000 ($0.87) compared to prime seats and KW2,000 ($1.75) compared to standard.