Local team to work with China Film Group

Paramount Pictures Intl. opened an office in Shanghai — its first in China — on Wednesday.

The Par China rep will work with the state-run China Film Group, which oversees all international releases in the country, as well as China Film Distribution and HuaXia Distribution on future Paramount theatrical releases.

The office should open the way for Par to expand distribution in China, where the box office has risen by more than 25% every year for the past five years, according to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. Total box office last year reached $635 million, with U.S. studio fare generating about 40% of that figure.

Par’s films will, however, still be subject to China’s tough 20-film quota on foreign pics coming into the country.

“This is a step change for Paramount into the fastest-growing and one of the most exciting cinema markets in the world,” said Paramount Pictures Intl. prexy Andrew Cripps. “With the creation of the Paramount China representative office, we will be able to work even more closely with China Film Group in bringing future Paramount films to the local market and to explore local production opportunities.”

Earlier this year Par fell afoul of the Chinese censors with Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” One scene involving a Decepticon-Autobot battle in Shanghai was altered to obscure the reference to the city.

The movie still notched up the biggest opening of all time for an English-language pic in China, with a five-day gross of $24.3 million.

DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda,” which Par distributed worldwide, was last year’s highest-grossing English-language pic in China.

The first Paramount pic to be released by the China office will be Stephen Sommers’ “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.”

The studio’s films were previously handled by UIP in China.

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