China, France prepare film treaty

East meets West at the movies through co-prod'n pact

NEW YORK -- France and China are on the verge of inking a co-production treaty that could help open one of the world's fastest-growing movie markets to Gallic filmmakers.

The first film pact between the two nations, which follows four years of negotiations, will be signed Friday "if all goes well," an official at France's Center National de la Cinematographie said.

Terms of the treaty were not available.

Due to sign the treaty in Paris are Christine Albanel, France's Minister of Culture, and by Wang Taihua, director of China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

As China's boxoffice swells thanks to pent-up demand and a limited supply of imported films, filmmakers from Hollywood to Paris to Seoul are keen to get a piece of the action -- even as they complain that Beijing submits filmmakers to undue censorship and offers foreign producers a paltry share of boxoffice receipts.

Estimates show that ticket receipts in the country are on track to grow by as much as 40% by the end of 2008. China's boxoffice has grown by more than 30% on average during the past five years, buoyed by advances in the battle against piracy, rising average incomes and the building of modern movie theaters in second-tier cities. 

The boxoffice has well outpaced the average 10% annual growth in the broader Chinese economy over the past decade, but China still limits to 20 a year the number of imports allowed to share in boxoffice receipts.

Because foreign filmmakers can bring new stories, investment and foreign expertise into China, SARFT and the Film Bureau typically allow co-productions whose scripts they must approve to skirt the annual import limits and enjoy distribution by China's dominant state-run movie studio, the China Film Group.

The treaty with France will be China's fourth international co-production treaty. China has had such treaties with Canada and Italy for several years and, in August 2007, signed a treaty with Australia, which already has produced Roger Spotiswoode war film "The Children of Huangshi."

Instead of offering international filmmakers tax breaks, China further promotes its' film industry by highlighting improved protection of intellectual property rights, unique locations and cheap skilled labor.

China is said to be negotiating similar treaties with India and Britain, documents Miao Xiaotian, vp at China Film Co-Production Corp. boasted at Cannes two years ago would be signed by then end of 2007.

The treaty with France is due to be signed just as a U.S. trade delegation including executives from the Motion Picture Association of America, arrives in Beijing on Thursday for its annual roundtable discussion about IPR in China.

Rebecca Leffler in Paris contributed to this report.
comments powered by Disqus