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China’s soaring B.O. and plex growth tempts

Quotas on foreign product stifle outsiders

Little Big Soldier

CHINA

Still a phenomenom, China’s B.O. racked up $910 million last year — the take more than doubled during the Nov. 20, 2009-Feb. 20, 2010 quarter to $440 million — and is expected to top $1.5 billion this year. Much of this growth has been driven by better distribution — more multiplexes for a newly rich middle class to visit as cinemagoing culture develops. By the end of last year, China had more than 4,700 screens, including nearly 800 3D screens and 1,800 digital screens. Considering China has a population of 1.3 billion, there is a lot of room to expand.

For those outside China, the big question is always how much access filmmakers will get to this growing market. China Film Group vice prexy Shi Dongming said in a recent Variety interview that the Chinese market was opening up to foreign product, and that the quota figure of roughly 20 foreign movies allowed into China every year on a revenue-sharing basis was consistently exceeded. But restrictions remain, and many shingles find the tough regulations for co-productions, including complying with censorship requirements if you are planning to sell the movie in China, a difficult hurdle to jump.

Total 2009 box office: $910 million

Total number of releases: 456

Top 2009 indie film:The Founding of a Republic,” $61.5 million

Top 2010 indie pickups:

• “Little Big Soldier,” Huaxia/Polybona

• “14 Blades,” Shanghai Film Group

• “Hot Summer Days,” Huayi Brothers

• “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf II,” Polybona

• “Just Another Pandora’s Box,” Beijing Galloping Horse/China Film/Huaxia

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