China to Introduce Film Law This Year

The Chinese government Wednesday confirmed plans to this year pass a package of laws governing its fast-growing film industry.

The law comes at a time when the film regulators have once again raised doubts about the accuracy of box office reporting.

Confirmation of progress for the legislation came at the National People’s Congress, the top legislative body which meets this week to approve China’s 13th five-year plan, which runs 2016-2020.

According to state news agency Xinhua, Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, made the announcement at the NPC Wednesday afternoon session, attended by President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders.

Zhang named three legislative priorities for the first year of the plan:  an environmental protection tax, promoting the film industry and international criminal judicial assistance.

The film promotion law has been talked about for many years since deregulation of the sector at the beginning of the century. But it has previously failed to materialize.

Now the scale of the industry, its pace of change and the vast amounts of money being attracted into the entertainment sector make it a higher priority. Theatrical box office grew by 49% last year, hitting a gross RMB44 billion ($6.78 billion) and making China the world’s second largest movie market after North America.

Chinese movies saw their gross revenues grow by a stunning 67% from RMB16.2 billion in 2014 to RMB27.1 billion in 2015.

The State Administration for Press Publication Radio Film and Television said this week that it was investigating the box office takings of “Ip Man 3,” which scored over $70 million at the weekend amid. The distributor has been accused of bulk buying of tickets to the film, while Chinese media have reported ‘ghost screenings’ of the film with abnormally high ticket prices at unusual times of day. SAPPRFT said that it has asked cinemas and online ticketing services for information.

If cheating is revealed, it would not be the first time that distributors have been caught massaging the figures. Last year one of the distributors of record breaker “Monster Hunt” was forced to apologize after bulk buying. Other well-known scams include hand writing film titles over a ticket issued in the name of a film being illicitly promoted, and bundling refreshments as part of the ticket price.

The Global Times reported: “Zhang Hongsen, director of SAPPRFT’s film bureau, posted on his personal WeChat account the message: ‘It hasn’t been easy for the [Chinese] film market to reach today. We should highly treasure it’.”

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