Cinemas reopen after SARS shutterings

SHANGHAI — Beijing’s cinemas reopened Tuesday after a closure of seven weeks due to fears about the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

This will be good news for “Daredevil,” skedded to bow June 20; “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” June 27; and “The Matrix Reloaded,” which will hit the mainland July 18.

No new SARS cases were announced Monday or Tuesday, though three deaths were reported.

The film industry got its second boost Tuesday: The makeup of China’s long-awaited second distrib for imported films was announced just a week away from its bow.

Sharing market

Hua Xia will control half of the 20 foreign films released on a revenue-sharing basis each year, according to the World Trade Organization quota. The other half will remain with China Film Group, which has held a monopoly since quotas began in 1994.

China Media Group, part of the State Administration of Radio, Film & Television (Sarft), will hold the majority share of 20% of Hua Xia. CFG and Shanghai Film Group will control 11% each. Changcun Film Group is allocated 10%, with the rest split between other domestic film producers and cinemas, according to the China Daily newspaper.

Distribution reform has been long coming. Breakup of CFG’s monopoly was announced at the 2001 Shanghai Intl. Film Festival, but negotiations stalled because of infighting between CFG and regional distribs.

Distribution of domestic films also has been a contentious issue. A year ago, Sarft announced measures to break up regional monopolies in local distribution. Cinemas now can deal with any domestic distrib company, studio or filmmaker.

Regional distribution has never been a black-and-white process. Peter Loehr, formerly president of Imar Prods. (now Ming Prods. prexy), personally took Zhang Yang’s 2000 hit “Shower” around to cinemas trying to persuade them to screen it.

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