Mixed bag in China

Valenti: piracy down, but access is limited

BEIJING — China is cutting down on the illegal copying of U.S. films — but it’s still keeping too many of the real films out of its market, Jack Valenti said Thursday.

The Motion Picture Assn. prexy urged China to open up to the U.S. film industry, saying Hollywood could offer money and expertise to the nation’s filmmakers.

But after a three-day visit to Beijing, Valenti said he saw no signs that bureaucrats were prepared to ease censorship rules or a limit of 10 to 12 foreign blockbusters allowed into China each year.

“I do believe that in time we will have access into China. I’m trying to be patient,” he said.

Valenti, on his third bridge-building trip to China, said he had “extremely cordial” talks with officials from the state council, the cabinet, ministries in charge of culture, and the film and broadcast industries.

He predicted minimal fallout from three films on China and Tibet that Beijing finds offensive — MGM’s “Red Corner,” TriStar Pictures’ “Seven Years in Tibet” and Walt Disney’s “Kundun.”

“The life of a film is transitory,” Valenti said. “These three films are a passing phase in our relationship and will have no lasting damage.”

However, China’s Foreign Ministry indicated otherwise.

“Some entertainment media in the United States, in disregard of history and realities in China, have circulated some films that distort history and demonize China,” spokesman Tang Guoqiang said. “These films have greatly hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.”

Valenti applauded Chinese efforts to observe an agreement with Washington to combat illegal copying of U.S. movies.

“Piracy of film is measurably and visibly down,” Valenti said, noting that police had shut down some prolific bootleg operations in South China.

However, Jeffrey Hardee, an MPA executive based in Singapore, said reducing piracy makes no difference if U.S. films are not allowed into the market.

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