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Imported movies drive film market

By Zheng Xin  (China Daily)

15:56, July 20, 2012

Domestic movies did not fare well in the first half of the year, but imported blockbusters helped drive the entire market, according to the country's film authority.

Box office sales in China in the first six months of the year reached 8.07 billion yuan ($1.28 billion), a 41.7 percent year-on-year increase, according to data the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television released on Thursday.

Ticket sales for imported movies increased by 90.4 percent to 5.27 billion yuan, while sales for domestic films dropped by 4.3 percent to 2.8 billion yuan, according to the administration.

Film ticket sales totaled 10.17 billion yuan in 2010 and more than 12 billion yuan last year, according to the administration.

"Despite the expanding size of the film market in China, the market share of Chinese films is shrinking," said Gao Jun, general manager of Beijing Shengshi Huarui Film Investment & Management Co and a former deputy general manager of the theater operator New Film Association.

With box office sales of 215.99 million yuan by the end of June, the fantasy epic Painted Skin: The Resurrection was the biggest domestic film in the first half of the year.

The movie is still being shown and had grossed 516.6 million yuan as of July 8. It is still far from the 934.03 million yuan grossed by Titanic 3D, the most popular foreign movie in China in the first six months of the year.

The poor performance of the domestic film industry is because of the low quality of Chinese movies, when competing with foreign blockbusters, according to experts.

"Compared with Hollywood blockbusters, domestic films are at a disadvantage," Gao said. "And it is not fair for Chinese films to compete with those well-chosen films."

The government loosened restrictions on the distribution of foreign films for theater releases from 20 to 34 a year, after negotiations with the World Trade Organization earlier this year. As a result, it's likely that even fewer people will go to see domestic films, Gao said.

"This is very unfavorable for the Chinese film industry," he said.

According to Gao, most of the more than 80 domestic films released in the first half of the year did not make a profit, and the domestic movie-making industry is facing its biggest challenge since China's reform and opening-up in the early 1980s.

"The confidence in investing in domestic films has gradually faded away," Gao said. "The ice age for domestic film investment might be right around the corner, which could in turn lead to fewer domestic films being made."

However, Gao said it's possible that Chinese films' share of box office could rise in the second half of the year because the foreign blockbusters scheduled to be shown are not expected to be as competitive as the ones in the first half year.

"It may take a long time for the Chinese film industry to develop itself and compete with its foreign counterparts," he said.


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