Limits on movie imports “should be loosened” (China Daily)

2 August 2012 14 h 11 min Comments Off

Experts are calling for a lifting of the restrictions that are used to protect China’s domestic film industry by controlling how many movies can be imported into the country during the summer.

Their comments came after a few foreign blockbusters that were expected to come to Chinese theaters in August, a peak season for movies, failed to appear on screens.

Of the 30 films that were to be released in China in August, only six were imported, industry sources said. Three of them came from the United States, two from the France and one from Thailand. Of the three from Hollywood, only “The Amazing Spider-Man” — which was released throughout the world during the weekend of June 29 — is being eagerly awaited at the Chinese box office. The other two were released in the US in the first half of 2011.

Several other Hollywood productions were originally meant to premiere in China this month but now don’t appear on theater schedules. Among them were “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”. The release of those movies may not come until after Aug 30, when most school’s summer vacations have come to an end.

No written rule limits the number of foreign films that can be imported during the summer, but the practice of restricting their numbers has existed for years.

Gao Jun, general manager of the Beijing Shengshi Huarui Film Investment & Management Co, and the former deputy general manager of the theater operator New Film Association, issued a warning about the possible consequences of postponing the release dates.

“I’m afraid that the restrictions will have adverse effects on consumption in the movie market, even though domestic movies will be able to get a larger share of total ticket sales,” he said.

Chen Shaofeng, deputy dean of Peking University’s institute for cultural industries, also said the unofficial restrictions on imports of foreign films during the summer could inadvertently harm the Chinese film industry.

“The more domestic movies are protected, the less box office revenues that are generated in our market will increase, even though it is necessary to give (such films) an appropriate amount of protection,” he said.

Jiang Defu, a spokesman for China Film Group Corp, the largest State-owned film conglomerate in China and one of the two companies authorized to oversee the distribution of foreign movies in the country, explained that before an imported movie is released, “there are a series of procedures that involve different departments and parties”. “It is definitely not just one institution such as China Film Group that is able to decide the whole thing,” he said.

In the first half of this year, more than 100 domestic movies generated less than 3 billion yuan ($470 million) in revenue. At the same time, 38 imported ones grossed nearly 5 billion yuan, an amount that made up 65 percent of the total box office revenue collected in the country, according to m1905.com, a movie website.

In July, the protective measures did produce good results for domestic movies. Among the beneficiaries was “Painted Skin: The Resurrection”, which by July 27 had raked in more than 700 million yuan in ticket sales, more than any other Chinese-language movie during that month. Most of the domestic movies to be released this month are medium and small-budget productions.

Chen added that makers of domestic movies don’t have much money to spend on marketing and promotion and their productions thus tend to run for shorter stretches of time than foreign ones. Analysts suggest, however, that it would be a mistake to place tighter restrictions on imports of Hollywood movies, noting that the domestic industry cannot be successful without the support of large audiences.

Source: China Daily (02/08/2012)

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