China Mulls Upping Film Quota by 10 (Exclusive)

9:15 AM PST 02/09/2014 by Clifford Coonan

The decision to allow 44 foreign releases into the massive market could come as early next month.

The Film Bureau in Beijing looks set to raise the quota of foreign movies allowed into China by 10 movies to 44 films, a sign of growing openness in the world's second-biggest box-office market.

"We are examining raising the quota of foreign movies right now, probably by around 10 films. It's being discussed but we haven't made a decision yet," a source tells THR.

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Raising the quota could do much to improve relations between Hollywood and China, which have been tense in the past few months over difficulties regarding payment and a screening scheduling that favors local products.

While no deadline for the increase could be confirmed, the quota could be raised as soon as March, when China's annual parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC) gathers in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

In February 2012, China raised the number of overseas movies allowed to screen in China by 14 to 34 on a revenue-sharing basis, making way for more 3D and Imax titles.

That deal was announced by China's President Xi Jinping, said to be a bit of a Hollywood movie fan, during a visit to the United States, in tandem with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

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Hollywood has lobbied hard for the import quota to be lifted completely, saying it breaches rules on trade imposed by China's membership in the World Trade Organization.

The source said that, as it stands, most Hollywood movies that try to get a screening tend to make it unless they don't meet censorship standards.

"Censorship is not going to change, so in some ways it doesn't really matter because if your film doesn't meet censorship requirements, then it wont' get in," said the source.

U.S. releases account for the lion's share of the movies that are released in China. Sources said that Italy and France have been lobbying the Chinese government hard to have their films exempted from the quota.

There is also growing flexibility. Last year the quota filled around one month before the end of the year, and some big movies such as Ender's Game and The Great Gatsby looked set to miss out on a China showing, but space was found for the films -- Gatsby got in as an Australian film.

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