Film industry wants Hollywood ending

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China's movie industry is failing to take full advantage of the country's growing love of the silver screen, leaving the door open to Hollywood, according to a senior film industry insider.

Tong Gang, director of the State Film Bureau affiliated to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, said China's film industry simply cannot yet compete with Hollywood blockbusters like Avatar and Inception.

"China still lacks good films," said Tong on Friday in Beijing.

He said the nation's box office takings had soared to a record 10.17 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) in 2010 - a year-on-year rise of 63.9 percent.

The latest huge jump was part of a long-term trend. China's box office takings have been growing by an average of 35 percent each year since 2003.

The country's thirst for a night at the movies spawned 313 new theaters in 2010. Tong said an average of 4.2 big screens go live each day.

And China is certainly trying hard to produce those Hollywood-style blockbusters. The country made 526 feature films in 2010 - up 15 percent on 2009 - making China the third-largest film maker after Bollywood and Hollywood.

Chinese-made films have also been getting larger audiences overseas. Last year, Chinese movies grossed 3.52 billion yuan, which was up 26.9 percent on 2009.

But Tong said the fact that Chinese people spent 10.17 billion yuan at the box office last year was not yet cause for celebration.

"Ten billion yuan is just something to feel good about, but not to show off about," he said.

About 20 percent of the box office spending was funneled toward two Hollywood blockbusters: Avatar and Inception.

The highest-grossing domestic film, Feng Xiaogang's Aftershock, raked in only 673 million yuan.

"So far, it has not been possible to compete with such films as Avatar and Inception," Tong said. "Far too few domestic films are well received by the public."

And China's film industry is also eagerly awaiting more up-to-date information about box office receipts. The State Film Bureau has been working on a more timely system but, currently, such information is only being released quarterly.

In March, China will work with the World Trade Organization on the WTO's call for it to open up its film market and allow foreign film companies to distribute their films independently, rather than through State-owned Chinese companies. Zhang did not comment on what impact that ruling might have on the Chinese film industry.

Jiang Wen's Let the Bullets Fly, released on Dec 16, has proved to be one of the most popular recent Chinese releases. It has so far grossed more than 500 million yuan. Last year, 17 films took more than 100 million yuan at the box office.

So-called hot money is also understood to be a factor in the movie industry. In recent years, the booming Chinese box office is thought to have attracted a lot of investment capital.

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