The so-called “blackout periods” are typically imposed three times per year — at Chinese New Year, mid-Summer and again in December — with a view to ensuring that local films can have an unrestricted access to viewers at peak time of the year. However, they are rarely officially acknowledged to exist.
This year, after a slow second quarter at the mainland box office, regulators appear to have reconsidered this summer lockout. Unofficial figures for the first half of the year show theatrical takings up by only 20%.
That is despite a vast addition of theaters coming on stream — China now has over 39,000 — and means that like for like business is flat or even down.
Given that malaise, regulators have decided to give the theater operators a break — even if that means Chinese movies do not have the summer to themselves.
“Nothing is absolute, clearcut,” one senior distribution executive told Variety. It will always be subject to adjustments, revisions and interpretations.”
The annual import quota that limits the number of revenue sharing imported films to 34 per year is not set to change in the near term. Nor will the state monopoly on distribution of the quota films. Those two sacred concessions will however be sought by Hollywood negotiators once the Chinese distribution system comes up for discussion in February 2017.