HONG KONG – China is to crack down on fraud at the box office.

The State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said that it had issued a circular with new rules to prevent cheating by cinema operators.

The regulatory body said that ticketing software must be updated and replaced and that by May 1 all commercial cinemas must be connected to the national digital ticketing platform.

It also said that that film distributors should conduct routine checks on cinemas.

It said that fraud is often committed through the use of illegal ticketing software that use double systems to report reduced box office sales. Such fraud deprives distributors of revenue and cheats the government of its film tax.

There are also widespread examples of manual cheating, where a ticket is issued for a particular film, but the counter clerk then hand-writes the name of the film the customer actually wants to see. This practice may be sparked by the setting of targets for certain films.

In the past there were other known cases of cinema circuits simply refusing to provide figures to the distributor.

China’s box office has grown at an average of 30% per year for much of the past decade, to hit RMB21.8 billion in 2013, but a news article published by official news agency Xinhua acknowledged that the real figure could be at least 10% higher.

“The standard of ticket management can be further improved this year,” said Zhang Hongsen, head of the SGAPPRFT.