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China Screen Press. September Issue

China Film Bureau clamps down on US co-pros                                                       Back to CSP Articles   
Sep 19, 2012 新浪网
Summarized by Zhang Yan and Ian Lang
After the announcement of the new China-US film policy earlier this year, more and more films are questionably labeled "co-productions with the US", like Looper, Cloud Atlas and The Expendables 2 to increase profitability for foreign partners.

To clamp-down on potential abuses, Zhang Pei-min, Deputy Chief of the Film Bureau of China publicly announced in a recent seminar they would assess claimed US co-productions strictly. He said some Hollywood imports badged as co-productions enter the domestic market without usual import-restrictions, overlapping the market space and threatening domestic films.

As a legal co-production, a Chinese companies' contribution must be more than one-third of budget, whilst some of the leading actors must be Chinese and a significant proportion of scenes must be shot in China.

Currently some so-called co-productions see Chinese production companies involved only in the marketing of foreign films, investing only small token amounts in their budgets, and taking no part in production. Most Chinese companies do not have the finances to meet the third-of –budget requirement, and those that do mount their own productions rather than enter co-productions.

Foreign companies with co-production status usually achieve 20% higher income than foreign quota films. On a revenue-sharing basis, imported movies take 25% of box-office income, whilst foreign co-production partners take about 43%, and are not restricted by import quotas.

The Expendables 2 which has investment from Chinese company Letv has been classified as an import film. The status of Looper and Iron Man 3 that both have investment from Chinese company DMG are not yet determined, as is Cloud Atlas which has partial investment from Chinese company Dreams of the Dragon Pictures. However it s likely Keanu Reeves's Man of Tai Chi with investment by China Film will be granted co-production status. 

Co-production with the US is a new trend in China. DMG announced their global strategic partnership with Walt Disney in April this year, making Iron Man 3 together. Bona, with 19.9% shares owned by News Corporation, is in negotiations with several Hollywood companies to start shooting co-productions next year. "Co-production made by China and U.S. will be the leading force of the world film industry in the next ten years." the CEO of Bona, Yu Dong said.
Quoted in The Hollywood Reporter, James Cameron says his sequel to Avatar, that in its first installment made $182 million USD at the Chinese box office, will be made with a Chinese partner.
Directors top China's pecking order 
Sep 18, 2012 Ceweekly 中国经济周刊by Li Yan

"In the film industry, the most important thing is your connections. Without connections you can do nothing, and the directors are the center of the connection net” says Wu Ruo-qi, producer of mainly made low-budget films.

“You can change anyone except the director... famous directors always have appointments. You show the name, you will have plenty of investors. Sometimes the director may 'kidnap' the investor when films require continuous additional investment. With investors needing to find more money or new investors, the control of directors is clear." says Wu.

A director’s fame can not only attract money, but save money too.

   "To work with a famous director, production crew will lower their charges and stars will accept lower  pay." Wu said that the famous directors can lower production costs by more than one-third.

    In addition, some directors monopolize production companies. Feng Xiao-gang has directed five of major production companyH. Brothers’ thirteen total films with budgets over 100 million RMB for example.

  In 2010, Feng Xiao-gang' s Aftershock earned H Brothers a massive 32.8 million USD, compared to all other movies made by H. Brothers this year totaling only 12.7 million USD.

President of H. Brothers, Wang Zhong-jun said Feng is their core product. Earlier this year in February when Feng announced on the internet that he wanted to retire, H.Brothers stocks fell for three days in a row, with shareholders making less than 50.9 million USD.


Animation income soars                                                                                             Sep 18, 2012 艺恩网by Entgroup

According to a research report by Chinese market-research firm Entgroup, in 2011 income from animated movies rose 210% on 2010 figures to 268 million USD. The proportion of all films income for the same period has grown to 12.85% from a 2010 rate of 5.34%.

Twenty-five animated movies screened last year, including ten foreign movies that between them earned the lion’s share of 80.6% of total animated movies income.
Film Bureau announces local screening fund 
Sep 16, 2012 北京青年报

Deputy Chief of the Film Bureau of China, Mao Yu, is planning a special fund to encourage cinemas to show domestic movies. A policy announcement is expected soon. 

From 2003 to 2011, domestic movies earned more than 50% of all box-office income, but dropped to 30% in the first half of the year because of the new China-US film policy.
US blockbusters lose in foreign blackout    
Sept 13, 2012 艺恩网by 1900 
Summarized by Zhang Yan and Ian Lang

Under the so-called “domestic movie protection month” policy during July and August, only four Hollywood blockbusters were on shown over nine days.

Over the northern summer of July and August, Chinese cinemas exhibited domestic movies almost exclusively, with four Hollywood film openings postponed. The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man both started their runs on Aug 27, Prometheus on September 2, and The Expendables 2 on September 4. With the same target audience and short marketing lead-time, unsatisfactory income was reported for all.

In China, all foreign films are imported by state-owned companies. Insiders claim state-owned China Film Group sets only the month of release in their contacts, with an exact date only communicated to the production company a week before first screening. Production companies and distributors do not have the right to negotiate exact release dates.

According to China Film News box-office data, by September 23 income from The Dark Knight Rises has reached 54.5 million USD, The Amazing Spider-Man 50.4 million USD, Prometheus 34.5 million USD, and The Expendables 2 has earned 48.2 million USD.
IMAX expanding in China  
Sep 12, 2012 经济观察网by Li Jing. 
Summarized by Zhang Yan and Ian Lang

“The Greater China region has become the world's fastest-growing area for IMAX”, says Yuan Hong-gen, Vice-President of IMAX China. The chain is increasing both production and projection in the territory.

In 2010, there were thirteen IMAX cinemas in China, now the number has grown exponentially to seventy eight. In March 2011 IMAX signed partner ship contracts with Chinese leviathan exhibitor Wanda, with Wanda now contracting to further grow IMAX to ninety-one cinemas

On September 12, IMAX and major Chinese production company H. Brothers announced that four H. Brothers film will be reversioned for IMAX this year, with five more in the future.

Chaotic release-date changes  
Sep 12, 2012 时光网by Cui Ting, Xiao Dao
Last-minute release-date changes are having a chaotic effect on the Chinese movie market, with a variety of reasons quoted.

Chinese film White Deer Plain has postponed their expected release date because of technical failures in their digital exhibition copies.

Chinese film Mystery has been delayed by a censorship stalemate, with the director refusing to make new amendments demanded by government censors forty-one days before release date.

Chinese company DMG has not publicly declared the reason for its U.S. co-production Looper changing release date, but it is widely believed that final government determination of co-production status is the cause. If Looper is classified as an import film, it will be not be allowed to be shown on the October 1 National Day, when only domestic movies may be shown. 

Japanese animated movie Detective Conan: The Eleventh Striker was postponed by the distributor because of continuing Sino-Japanese disputes about Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.