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CRI | Agencies
Published on February 23, 2012 09:10

China is due to raise the curtain on more Hollywood movies. It now holds an annual quota of 20 revenue-sharing foreign films in Chinese theaters, but a new agreement will allow another 14 premium format films, such as 3-D and IMAX movies into Chinese cinemas. Wang Wei has more.

China has agreed to further open its market to more US films and provide better terms to US studios. It will not change the annual quota of 20 revenue-sharing foreign films in Chinese theaters, but it allows another 14 premium format films, such as 3-D and IMAX movies and similar enhanced format films into Chinese cinemas. Moreover, the US studios' share of their film profits in the Chinese market will rise from 13 percent to 25 percent.

Film studies Professor Ge Ying from Shanghai University says the main beneficiaries of this policy are the moviegoers.

"It will largely improve moviegoers' aesthetic taste for films, since they'll be directly in touch with more of world's first class films and technology."

However, the rise of US studios' film gross share to 25 percent has created a stir among Chinese cinemas and film distributors. They worry that the growing share will be coming out of their pockets and the loss could be huge.

Transformers 3's box office profits reached 1 billion yuan last year and US film makers took 130 million yuan out of it; but under the new policy, Chinese cinemas would have given up 250 million yuan, that's an extra 120 million yuan.

Industry insiders say cinemas could shift their loss to moviegoers by further raising ticket price. But Sha Dan, researcher at China film art research center, disagrees.

"More audiences will swarm to cinemas to watch these movies. Blockbusters are golden magnets for cinemas. More blockbusters only means more money."

Industry insiders say that Chinese cinemas are expected spend a lot on technology upgrades, since the 14 films will be introduced in premium formats, namely 3-D and IMAX. It will cost tens of millions to equip a cinema with the technology; but the money spent will eventually attract moviegoers.

Sha Dan says overall the new policy is good news for cinemas but definitely bad news for Chinese film makers in the short-term.

"Cinemas only save their time slots and quota for movies that can earn money. Chinese home-gown movies can hardly challenge American movies on these terms. One or more American blockbusters are dominating Chinese cinemas through the whole year. So another 14 American films will further squeeze out Chinese home-gown movies."

Sha Dan says that in the long run, introducing competition should stimulate Chinese home-grown movies to develop at a faster pace. When American blockbusters were first brought into Chinese cinemas in 1994, people had the same worries. But Chinese film makers stepped up, and movies like 'Hero' and 'House of Flying Daggers' successfully imitated the Hollywood experience, even performing well in American cinemas. Film director, Pu Jian, says Chinese film makers should not be concerned as long as they can produce genuinely good movies.

"Cinemas are commercialized to market needs. Good movies are defined by the numbers of its audiences. To survive the competition, Chinese film makers should always understand what audiences like. "

Sha Dan says the Chinese government should also loosen censorship on home-grown films to create more space for creativity.