Hollywood not invited to Party Congress

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BEIJING -- China's silver screen will glow red with patriotic films this October.

As the Communist Party leadership comes together for its 17th Party Congress, distributors and cinema chains here will be expected to toe the Party line, showing only films that uphold the vision of a harmonious society.

The State Administration of Radio Film and Television, in a circular to distributors and exhibitors late last week, said that the period around the Party Congress will be known as "Outstanding Golden Domestic Film Exhibition Month."

Despite a banner year that has seen such Hollywood imports as "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" and "Transformers" perform well at the boxoffice, Hollywood studio executives trying to sell their wares in China were not surprised by the blackout.

"The interesting part this time is that it is almost a blackout for local-language blockbuster films as well, since only 'quality,' i.e. propaganda, films can open during this period," one Hollywood executive in China said.

Periods in which Hollywood movies are barred have been common in the Chinese movie year and are designed to give domestic films a leg up at the boxoffice.

In fact, the next big Chinese-language film on the horizon, Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution," was set to premiere in China on Sept. 23, the same day the curtain rises in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Now, that release will be postponed, the Beijing representative of Hong Kong-based production company Edko Films said.

"We've got the news that the film will have to be pushed back," Wayne Jiang said, adding that the much-anticipated film starring Joan Chen and Tony Leung will likely get a new government-approved release date at the end of October, after the Party Congress ends. "The period before this is for local productions only," Jiang said.

The Party Congress takes place once every five years to pick new top-level leaders and chart the course of China's centrally-planned economy.

Simultaneous releases in China and other Chinese-speaking territories can limit the losses at China's boxoffice that occur due to the speed with which films are illegally copied and distributed on DVD.
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