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China Media Capital Group (CMC) has become the first company to obtain a cinema-chain operation license in China since authorities began reissuing them three years ago. CMC acquired Chinese cinema chain UME in 2017.

In the wake of the National Film Bureau’s decision to issue the permit, UME will “cooperate with CMC… to strengthen the development and distribution of CMC film content,” the two companies said in a joint statement issued in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

Last December, the bureau issued a document called “Opinions on Accelerating the Construction of Cinemas to Promote the Prosperity of the Film Market,” in which it encouraged top film-related companies to participate in the strategic improvement of the industry, and set the goal of increasing China’s current total of more than 60,000 screens to 80,000 by 2020.

CMC chairman and CEO Li Ruigang said: “We believe that with ever-improving cinema and theater technology, a new generation of viewers with new consumption patterns and the big gap in the levels of theater saturation in the country, this industry’s value will continue to rise and create sustainable market opportunities.”

UME general manager Sun Ying said: “In the future we will continue to build boutique cinemas and enhance the viewing experience through unified branding and standardized management.”

UME, which stands for Ultimate Movie Experience, was founded in 2002 and for the next decade became one of the country’s major high-end theater chains, forming close partnerships with festivals such as the Shanghai International Film Festival, which made ample use of its Xintiandi location. It currently operates and has invested in 53 theaters across 25 major Chinese cities. In 2018, it had a revenue of nearly $146 million (RMB1 billion) and was visited more than 22 million times by moviegoers.

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