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Same-day ‘Sith’ sought

China could share U.S. bow of 'Episode III'

BEIJING — Lucasfilm wants to release “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” in China on the same day as its U.S. bow, according to Chinese news reports.

Lucasfilm has asked the China Film Group, the larger of the two state-run distributors, to screen the pic at the country’s 50 digital cinemas on May 19 as part of a worldwide simultaneous premiere. Twentieth Century Fox is distributing the film worldwide.

China Film Group’s mention may also indicate that it will be the official distributor for the film, known in Chinese as “Star Wars Prequel 3: Revenge of the Black Knights.”

The key to an early release is cooperation from China’s State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT), which can fast-track the film’s progress past the censors.

China maintains an annual unofficial import quota of 20 foreign films, with generally no more than 14 from Hollywood.

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Simultaneous or early bows help films get the drop on pirates, who can put U.S. pics on the street in China within three to four days of their North American release.

However, due to lengthy reviews for censorship, Hollywood product rarely bows in China until months afterwards, giving pirates enough time to produce multiple versions of films.

China participated in the November 2003 worldwide simultaneous release of “Matrix Revolutions” after Warner Bros. reached an agreement with Chinese film regulators.