China mulls allowing Oscar winners

'Slumdog' leads with next week's bow

BEIJING — China’s Film Bureau is considering allowing Academy Award winners to unspool in the country this year and has greenlit the wide release of best pic winner “Slumdog Millionaire.”

The depiction of poverty was an issue, but still pic cleared the censors and will screen on March 26.

“The film contains elements which show concern for the grass roots, it is inspirational and has a special artistic beauty. Also, we are considering importing more Oscar films this year to China,” Weng Li, a spokesman for China Film Group, told Daily Variety.

That China Film is considering bringing more Academy Award winners into what is potentially the world’s biggest market is a positive sign that restrictions may be loosening.

There is a quota of around 20 foreign movies allowed into China every year on a revenue-sharing basis, although Hollywood prefers flat fees as a big hit can make more money. Of the 20 foreign pics, only a few are Hollywood products, as the quota also takes into account pics from other markets.

The quota does not apply to joint venture movies which are proving a bigger slice of the market as Hong Kong in particular becomes a player in China.

The tale of an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai who makes it big after winning India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” won eight Oscars, including best picture and director for helmer Danny Boyle.

Boyle is to attend the pic’s Beijing bow next week and it will go on wide release on 2,000 theaters across China on Thursday.

Many Chinese will have already watched the pic on pirate DVD or download, but increasingly people are flocking to the new fleet of plush theaters springing up around the country, as a night at the movies becomes an entertainment option for people previously denied the option.

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