Inside Move: Beijing backpedal for pic quota

Officials retreat from constriction

Chinese media reports indicating Beijing had ordered a cutback in the number of U.S. films that can be released in the mainland each year caused palpitations in Hollywood last week.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television had issued a regulation stating that a maximum of 14 U.S. pics would be permitted within the annual quota of 20 imported titles.

The aim was to get a better balance of films from various countries so as to “guide and educate the audience about world cinema.”

This would have been grim news for Hollywood, because last year 18 U.S. pics were released, accounting for the lion’s share of the nation’s B.O.

Anxious inquiries from the studios to Chinese authorities resulted in a rapid denial: Officials said no such policy had been adopted, although they said China would continue to strive to import “a variety of movies.”

At least one U.S. exec suspects there was some substance to the reports, but that Beijing was embarrassed by the leak and hastily backtracked.

Another U.S. rep noted the revenue-sharing regs in China have always called for a balance between countries and studios, but in practice Hollywood product has consistently gotten the majority of the 20 slots each year.

He characterizes the Chinese stance as “Watch what we do, not what we say.”