China’s State Council, headed by Premier Li Keqiang, has approved a new draft of the long-awaited Film Industry Promotion law.
The move comes as theatrical box office for the first eight months of 2015 overtook the full year total of 2014. Gross revenues exceeded RMB 30 billion ($4.71 billion) state news agency Xinhua said, citing the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT). That is a 48.5% increase on the same point in 2014 and continues the same break-neck performance as at the midpoint of 2015.
SARFT said that box office is on track to exceed RMB40 billion ($6.25 billion) this year. It also keeps China on track to overtake the North American theatrical market within three years.
Despite such growth, the industry has long argued that it is hampered by antiquated laws and regulations. And it has complained that the Film Industry Promotion law has been delayed for nearly two decades.
Having been passed by the State Council, the draft law is now up for discussion and, later, presentation for approval by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
When finally approved by the NPC, the laws will trigger a series of incentives covering financing, taxation, investment and land usage, all intended to encourage businesses and individuals to join the film industry.
“The law will deepen reforms of the film industry and help create a fair and well-ordered competitive market,” said film and TV director Che Jingxing, quoted by the Global Times.
Details to have emerged publicly so far are scant, though there are suggestions that the new law will introduce some new restrictions on content.
There is unlikely to be any mention of the import quota restrictions that Hollywood and a number of private sector Chinese distributors would like to see scrapped, and which are scheduled for revision in 2017. Nor is there explicit mention of the introduction of a rating or classification system for films on release.
At present, the lack of a rating system means that all films released in theaters should in theory be suitable for audiences of all ages. Current understanding is that the government wants to implement a ratings system through the China Film Distribution and Exhibition Association, an industry guild, in a fashion similar to the non-governmental Motion Picture Association’s role in the U.S.
One commentator said that the move forward with the Film Promotion law now better reflects the industry reality than it did in 2006, the last time it was previously given a major legislative push.
The irony is that now that cash is pouring into China’s film industry from sources including the Internet giants, investments funds and Hollywood – as well as ticket-buying audiences — the Chinese government is preparing to give it more money.