China touts patriotic films

'Outstanding' to segway Communist meeting

Chinese moviegoers are gearing up for weeks of solid patriotic fare as the government keeps a lid on controversial pics ahead of a crucial Communist Party meeting.

The State Administration of Radio Film and Television has announced “Outstanding Golden Domestic Film Exhibition Month,” actually running six weeks from Sept. 15-Oct. 30, during which only “quality,” meaning propaganda, movies may be shown.

China freezes the release of foreign films several times a year to promote patriotic domestic fare, but this blackout is unusual as it also will have an impact on more controversial Chinese movies, such as Jiang Wen’s “The Sun Also Rises” and Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution.”

It’s the third of four blackouts this year — the first ran June 20-July 11, the second from July 21-Aug. 12, and all of December is reserved for Chinese pics.

“Foreign films are doing so well. They are doing anything to encourage the domestic films. But this is different because it’s about ‘quality’ movies ahead of the party congress, which means propaganda movies,” said one Beijing-based Hollywood exec.

Catherine Zeta-Jones starrer “No Reservations” opened Friday to beat the blackout, while “The Sun Also Rises” is opening Thursday to get in as the shutters come down.

“Lust, Caution,” which has already drawn the attention of Chinese censors for its controversial sex scenes, was due to open Sept. 23 but will now be postponed until after the Party Congress, which takes place once every five years.

President Hu Jintao is expected to cement his power base during the 17th Party Congress, which starts in mid-October, and as such there is a general push to promote the country’s core socialist values in the run-up to the meeting. For exhibs, this means showing only films that underline President Hu’s message of China being a harmonious society.

Hollywood execs regularly complain of a lack of clarity on operating in China and list the blackouts as a major impediment that lead to delays and revenue losses. By the time the delayed movies hit theaters, pirates have often flooded the market with cheap DVD copies.

Hollywood has done very well in China this year, led by tentpoles such as “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and “Transformers.”

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