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Movie sector undergoes constant changes
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-18 13:54

The recent establishment of a Sino-US film company, Warner China Film, is hailed as a milestone for China's film industry, allowing foreign capital's entry into the once-exclusive sector.

It has taken a decade for foreign investment to make the nearly full entry into China's film industry.

In the past, international film companies needed to collaborate with China Film Co-production Corporation, now the fourth production division under the gigantic China Film Group Corporation.

In 1991, the Ministry of Radio, Film and Television stipulated in its circular that co-productions by Chinese film studios and foreign film companies must be screened by a special committee under the ministry before they were given distribution permits on the Chinese mainland.

On November 4, 1996, the State Film Bureau issued a new notice, stipulating the majority of production crews for any film co-production must be Chinese citizens and at least 5 per cent of the performers in the film must also be Chinese.

Meanwhile, foreign films, from Asia or other parts of the world, were imported and distributed on the Chinese mainland solely by the distribution division of the China Film Group Corporation, previously called the China Film Import and Export Company.

On August 9, 2003 China Huaxia Film Distribution Co was established to break the monopoly that China Film Group Corp held over distributing imported films for half a century.

On November 12, 1994, the American film "The Fugitive" starring Harrison Ford made history as it became the first Hollywood blockbuster to be screened in six major cities on the Chinese mainland, on a revenue-sharing basis.

In the following years, about 10 overseas films, including some Hong Kong films, were introduced to mainland moviegoers under the same business framework.

In 2000, the government issued a notice on deepening the reforms in the film sector, especially on the overhaul of cinema circuits.

Encouraged by the new policy, in June 2001, the US company Kodak, an industry giant in photographic equipment and supplies, opened the first foreign-invested movie multiplex "Kodak Cinema World (Shanghai)" in collaboration with the State-owned Shanghai Film Group, now called Shanghai Media Group.

On December 11, 2001, China gained entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and made a commitment to further open its markets to overseas players step by step.

Since 2002, about 20 overseas films entered the Chinese mainland film market, in line with China's commitment to the WTO, and the film quota is expected to rise to about 40 per year in the future.

Also, within the first three years after China's WTO entry, international businesses are now able to invest in cinema construction and renovations, but cannot hold a controlling stake during the initial period of the ventures.

Only after a grace period, foreign investors will be able to increase shares to at least 50 per cent in cinema construction, renovation and management.

On December 1 last year, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television issued another notice concerning joint-venture film productions, which paved the way for the establishment of Warner China Film.

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