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Cinematic Venues Go International

Next year modernized, joint-ventured cinemas with multiple screens will quickly emerge in the Chinese mainland due to a new regulation issued by the State film administration on Friday.


The new rules, effective next year, allow foreign capital investments in cinemas of up to 75 percent in six cities - Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan and Nanjing.


Capital from Hong Kong and Macao can enjoy the same benefit, the rules said.


Before now, foreign enterprises were allowed to build cinemas only as minority partners without the right to run or manage.


Mao Yu, a senior official at the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, said about 100 new joint-venture cinemas will be built next year "entering the market with astonishing speed."


Warner Bros will invest in many of the ventures, including a Tianjin cinema with 2,700 seats and another in Nanjing scheduled to open soon.


"Both cinemas have at least 10 screens, and the cinema in Nanjing provides a spacious lobby of more than 1,000 square meters," he said.


Insiders have agreed that modernizing cinemas and setting up more screens will help tap the market and vitalize the movie industry.


Statistics indicate only 2,000 screens in 1,200 cinemas are showing the latest movies to Chinese audiences, a number much smaller than countries and regions with developed movie industries.


The number of screens in the United States is 30,000, and there are 600 in Hong Kong.


"Many cinemas have only one screen in China. When four or five good movies come out at the same time, these cinemas just do not have enough screens to show all the available films," said Zhang Piming, deputy director of the film administrative department under the State administration.


"They either give up some good ones or show each movie for only two or three days."


Officials are determined to solve the problem.


Modernized cinemas that have opened in recent years have added 336 screens in all, and have seen rapidly growing box office receipts accounting for 45 percent of the total box office of all 1,200 cinemas, Zhang said.


The administration has announced three other regulations pushing reform that became effective on December 1.


The regulations simplified censorship on movies and scripts and encouraged home-made movies to participate in more international film festivals.


The regulations allow foreign capital to fund film production companies as minority partners to produce films with their Chinese counterparts.


Using non-State funds is another part of the reform. Companies can use private money to fund film productions, a liberal change from past practices.


According to Tong Gang, director of the film administrative department, the total number of movies produced this year reached 140, almost 50 percent more than last year.


(China Daily December 20, 2003)

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