Magazine article Screen International

The China Syndrome

Magazine article Screen International

The China Syndrome

Article excerpt

In light of the new Chinese film quotas, how can East and West benefit each other?

The recent relaxation of China's film quota will allow an additional 14 enhanced-format (large-screen or 3D) foreign films into the country's theatres. While that may seem like a small number, and principally means gains for the US studios, it does signify a willingness on the part of the Chinese authorities to expand the legal market for non-Chinese cinema in what is potentially the world's biggest cinema-going market.

The steps are small ones, but revenues for foreign film suppliers in China are growing. At a panel I chaired at Filmart in Hong Kong this week, representatives from web platforms such as Qiyi and Youku explained how they are buying large packages of US films and making them available online either on a free-to-consumer, ad-supported basis or on a transactional video-on-demand basis. While the latter will require training a population accustomed to getting its films for free via pirated downloads to pay (only about 75 cents) for its content, it does show a move towards a maturing market with big revenue potential.

If the online access to foreign films appears in contradiction to the strict theatrical quotas, there is fear that the government will clamp down on this online access to foreign entertainment.

So what can the West give to the East in return for the new quotas? However ambitious Chinese production is these days, there is little audience demand outside Asia for historical Chinese epics such as Confucius and White Vengeance. …

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