Organizers say they are internationalizing the 14th China Golden Rooster and Full Blossom Film Festival, which ended Saturday, by inviting foreign films and artists to join the festival and asking the ceremony attendees to wear formal dresses.
Not only the film festival held in China's southernmost coastal city of Sanya, but the entire film industry in China, is at a crossroads in which it has to decide to be either more open or protected.
Some Chinese movies have recently received wide acclaim at various international film festivals. Peacock, Kekexili Mountain Patrol, Shanghai Dreams and Loach Is Fish Too have all been well-received internationally.
With a population of 1.3 billion, China has the potential of becoming one of the world's biggest film markets.
China's movie box-office revenue is projected at 15 billion to 20 billion yuan(US$1.85 billion to 2.47 billion) presently, but it may rise up to 50 billion yuan(US$6.17 billion) in the next ten years, said Tong Gang, director of the Film Bureau, the State Administration of Radio Film and Television(SARFT).
Hollywood watchers even estimated that China may become the second largest film market in the world, topping Europe and Japan, where annual box-office taking stands at US$4.4 billion and US$1.6 billion respectively.
However, few Chinese films are shown in Western cinemas because of a lack of communication and engagement with international film circuits.
Foreign audiences of Chinese films can only find something to watch during international film festivals. Exceptions like Hero and House of Flying Daggers are rare.
Organizers of China's "Oscar," the Golden Rooster, put on show some foreign films for the first time this year in "an attempt to make our film festival an international one," said Kang Jianmin, vice president of the China Film Association.
It has been 11 years since China imported the first Hollywood blockbuster, The Fugitive, which stirred China's film market. According to bilateral agreements China and the United States reached in 1999 regarding China's entry into the World Trade Organization, China is going to show 50 imported films in its 35 cinema lines.
However, calls for the protection of Chinese films are still popular in China, as the industry is beset with the fear of Hollywood.
In October last year, China began to allow foreign capital into film-TV play producing joint ventures, under the condition that the foreign partner holds less than 49 percent of stakes.
But in another notice issued in March this year, the SARFT said that a foreign investor is only allowed to establish one film-TV play producing joint venture in the country, which observers view as a step backwards in introducing foreign capital into the film industry.
That means that many foreign film-TV play-making companies cannot expand their businesses in the Chinese mainland in a short period of time.
Some Chinese say the move helped win more time for domestic film-TV play producers.
In fact, how to protect the national film industry is not just a problem China faces. The film industry had been a focal controversy in the negotiations for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade since 1947.
Europe, led by France, succeeded in excluding film and TV productions and services from general goods which could circulate freely among countries in the Uruguay round of negotiation in 1993.
France, for example, stipulates that non-European films cannot exceed 40 percent of those screened at French cinemas, and transfers a small proportion of the box-office revenue of the US films into a special fund to finance the French film production.
The Republic of Korea began to carry out a film quota system in1966, by ordering its cinemas to screen home-made films at least 146 days in a year. Meanwhile, the government is earmarking money to finance film making every year until the Korean film box office stands at 40 percent of the total. The amount has reached 39 percent now.
"The Chinese film industry cannot fully open," said Tong Gang.
Actually, China has taken some measures to protect its fledging film industry, including infusing 3 percent of TV commercials' revenue into a special fund to support film shoots, he said.
(Xinhua News Agency November 15, 2005)