Cinemas in China no longer need to be controlled by Chinese entities, the country’s top state planning agency has announced, opening up the sector to outsiders after years of rapid expansion at a time when the local box office is threatened by a severe production slowdown.
China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) on Sunday issued revised “negative lists,” which name the sectors in which foreign investment is prohibited or restricted. the move came the day after the US and China agreed to reenter trade talks after Trump backed down on tariffs and restrictions on controversial Chinese tech giant Huawei. Revisited annually, this year’s lists will come into effect on July 30, while market access restrictions that no longer feature — such as the one related to cinemas — “will be fully lifted before the end of this year,” the official Xinhua news agency cited an NDRC official as saying.
This year, foreign investors face 40 listed restrictions rather than last year’s 48. Seven of those are in the “culture, sports and entertainment” category, down from nine last year, while the others span numerous sectors including manufacturing, mining and agriculture.
Last year’s negative list had two restrictions related to the film industry, including one stipulating that “the construction and operation of cinemas must be controlled by the Chinese side,” the original document shows. This year’s version has removed this item. The other remains, which declares it “forbidden [for foreign entities] to invest in film production companies, distribution companies, cinema chain companies and film import companies.”
Other culture-related entries include restrictions on investment in news organizations, publishing, TV, radio, cultural performance groups and auction houses, stores or state-owned museums involved with cultural relics.
China is home to the world’s most screens and continues to build new cinemas, albeit at a slower rate than in previous boom years. Chinese companies put up 9,303 new screens in 2018, bringing the national total to 60,079, according to Xinhua. The number of new openings is marginally down from 2017, when 9,597 new screens were erected.