James Cameron is seen promoting Avatar in Beijing before Christmas. Hollywood studios are eager to gain more access into China's theatres, amid the rapid growth of the Chinese box office in the past few years. ((Andy Wong/Associated Press))

China's box office soared in 2009, growing by 44 per cent according to figures released from China's Film Bureau on Friday.

Box office revenue rose to 6.2 billion yuan (about $902 million Cdn), said Weng Li, a spokesman for the state-run China Film Group.

Weng added that Chinese box office revenue has grown by an average of 30 per cent annually for the past six years.

China also added 600 new screens last year, bringing the country's total to 4,700. Out of the total, 1,800 are digital and nearly 800 are 3-D screens, Weng said.

The boffo, rapidly rising figures paint a picture of why Hollywood is so eager to get more of its films into Chinese cinemas.

The China Film Group restricts the number of foreign titles permitted to screen in its theatres, with an annual quota of 20 revenue-sharing imports.

U.S. movie studios are among the groups in favour of a World Trade Organization ruling blasting China for restricting music, film and book imports from the U.S.

Still, a host of internationally successful Hollywood titles also did strong business in China in 2009.

Summer blockbuster Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen took in about $65.5 million Cdn after its release in July, breaking the Chinese box office record the epic romance Titanic had held since 1998.

Then, in December, disaster film 2012 broke the Transfomers record. It made nearly $67 million.

However, Titanic director James Cameron has another chance to recapture the title with his new science fiction tale Avatar. Along with the movie's stellar performance everywhere else, it is expected to set a new box office record in China

Cameron travelled to Beijing to promote Avatar just before Christmas and urged China to open its doors to more foreign productions.

With files from The Associated Press