U.S. majors to press China distrib

H'w'd studios concerned at lack of progress

SYDNEY — Worried U.S. majors will send a delegation to China this month to gauge government intentions amid rumors the distribution of foreign films is not to be opened up as widely as expected.

The reforms being discussed in Beijing last week are cosmetic changes that won’t satisfy Hollywood or the Shanghai Film Group, the largest provincial studio pressing for a distrib license, according to China watchers.

Concerned at the lack of progress, the U.S. studios intend to press their case.

In June, Chinese officials trumpeted plans to abolish the China Film Group’s monopoly on distributing imported pics and to introduce competitive bidding for distrib rights — one of the key reforms it dangled to win U.S. support for its entry into the World Trade Organization.

Since then, no new film policy has materialized and no distrib licenses have been issued, leading to fears China is backtracking on its commitment after being assured it can join the WTO in November.

The Ministry of Radio, Film and Television is mapping out a scheme to split China Film into two distrib companies, U.S. execs believe. One will comprise China Film’s existing distrib division; the other will be a joint venture with, which an unspecified number of provincial studios will be invited to join.

The catch: China Film would be the new entity’s controlling shareholder, so the state-owned agency, and by extension the government, would retain control of distribution.

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