China and Japan Hatching Co-Production Treaty

Asian neighbors and frequent rivals Japan and China are expected to sign a film co-production treaty next month.

The news was reported Wednesday by Japan’s Asahi newspaper, citing Foreign Ministry sources.

The treaty would be the first of its kind for Japan, whose film production and distribution industries have seen a lull in growth after pushing back Hollywood in the last decade. China has nearly 20 bilateral film and TV agreements. Its domestic industry is booming, but its film exports have not kept pace.

Final details of the accord have yet to be revealed, though the Asahi report points to films produced under the treaty as acquiring dual nationality. That would allow Chinese-Japanese co-produced films to escape China’s import quotas. Japan has no restrictions on foreign films, though very few Chinese titles have succeeded at the Japanese box office in recent years.

Japan’s “Your Name” earned $83 million at the Chinese box office last year. “Doraemon: Great Adventure in the Antarctic Kachi Kachi” earned $21.5 million.

But recent big-budget co-ventures have struggled. Chen Kaige’s “Legend of the Demon Cat,” which was based on a Japanese story and partly financed by Kadokawa, earned $84 million in China, but only $12.8 million in Japan. John Woo’s “Manhunt,” a remake of a Japanese film from the 1980s, earned only $16.1 million in China and $2.02 million in Japan.

Timing of the treaty signing is expected to be linked to the official visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Japan in May. The date also corresponds to the 40th anniversary of the 1978 Japan-China Treaty of Peace and Friendship.