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Chinese Media Lobby Against Cinema Blackout Periods for Hollywood Films

State-owned media in China this week have lobbied against the so-called ‘blackout period’ in mid-summer in which Hollywood movies are not allowed to receive mainstream theatrical releases.

“It has never been officially confirmed, but it is widely recognized that domestic (Chinese) films are carefully protected from foreign competition every summer,” the China Youth Daily wrote this week. The opinion piece was reprinted as an editorial leader Friday in The People’s Daily.

The piece was careful not to frame the case for abolition of the blackout period as benefiting Hollywood movies, but rather as an argument helping the Chinese film industry. The piece was headlined “Competition is good for movies,” and argued “one cannot become a running champion by always racing with a snail. Similarly, domestic (Chinese) films cannot become powerful if they always fear the competition from foreign blockbusters.”

The editorial suggested that some “certain protection” is still needed for Chinese movies. But said it should be “moderate.”

Currently the number of foreign films allowed to enter China and be released on revenue sharing terms is limited to 34 per year. Those films can only be distributed by state-owned companies and their release dates are chosen for them by Chinese regulators. After several weeks without the release of a new Hollywood film, this week saw “Jason Bourne” and “Ice Age: Collision Course,” both given the same Tuesday outing.

The piece made no mention of the two other blackout periods which normally also reserve the Chinese New Year and December periods as exclusive times for Chinese film releases.

The call for a more open market and for better Chinese films comes after three successively dismal months (May to July) at the box office. That slowdown is widely blamed on a combination of technical factors and a succession of lackluster summer movies from China and Hollywood.

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