BEIJING, Feb. 27 -- Nine Chinese cinemas have been banned from screening new movies after they were found to have cheated in box office figures, according to two film associations.
Among them, six cinemas in east China's Shandong Province and northern Shanxi are banned until they rectify their practice and the other three are banned for one month, said a statement issued on Wednesday by the China Film Producers' Association and China Film Distribution and Screening Association.
The two semi-official organizations are under the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.
These cinemas were found to have reported fake box office figures to authorities, sold hand written (or no) tickets or hindered official box office inspections.
In one case, a cinema in south China's Hainan Province registered no audience at all in their computer system despite the screenings in question receiving viewers normally.
All these misconducts aim to avoid lawfully sharing box office earnings with filmmakers and other relevant parties.
"There is nothing we can do but comply with the order. I think box office fraud is far more prevalent among cinema chains," Liu Chunlei, manager of Shidaihuana Cinema in Shanxi, one of the cinemas being punished, told Xinhua.
Liu said screenings of current titles are still under way at his cinema but they would not screen new films such as RoboCop, a remake of the 1987 classic directed by Paul Verhoewen, due to be released in China on Friday.
Another five cinemas were named for similar but less serious practices.
Local authorities in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality also found a cinema screening an unlicensed movie. Cinema personnel have been handed over to the police for further investigation, said the statement.
China's total box office sales neared 21.8 billion yuan (3.56 billion U.S. dollars) in 2013, a year-on-year increase of 54.3 percent.
A circular issued last month by the administration banned cinemas from manipulating viewing figures and other cinematic fraud, urging inspectors to routinely audit cinemas and report misconduct.