China to Report Box-Office Data Via Social Media

Illustration by: Lars Leetaru

The initiative is designed to combat fraud and improve transparency

China's entertainment industry watchdog has introduced new rules to make box-office data more transparent by using social media to release data and screening information.

More transparency is good news for Hollywood, as it means the box-office data coming out of China should become more reliable and that studios' share of China revenues will be more accountable.

In July, the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television introduced an updated ticketing system, which gives better real-time information.

This week, Li Dong, head of a special unit of SAPPRFT which looks at ticketing and box office issues, said the watchdog was planning to release the information through popular social media, such as Weibo, which is similar to Twitter, and WeChat, which has parallels with WhatsApp. It wasn't immediately clear at what frequency the data would be reported.

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The government has been busy in China clamping down on movie theaters manipulating box-office data, attendance figures and other forms of fraud related to ticket sales as part of a broader campaign to improve accountability in the film business. In July, SAPPRFT introduced a system that includes an anti-counterfeiting bar code to stop cinemas from selling fake tickets and avoiding paying tax or money to distributors.

Under the new system, every ticket that a cinema sells is uploaded to a national ticketing system. The data could then be released immediately, Li told local media.

"Information about 7 p.m. screenings can be found online at 7:05 p.m. The film supervisors can also go to the cinema immediately to check the actual situation," said Li. The system had previously been much more laborious, and the data was only released to a few outlets.

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He said once the data is posted on social media, it is transparent, and this will help combat fraud.

The new system is due to start in November.

In January, SAPPRFT issued a circular with a new standard on the technicalities of managing cinema ticket sales. The rules are aimed at stopping tax avoidance and the cheating of filmmakers and distributors by falsifying the numbers of moviegoers and reporting artificially reduced ticket sales.

Recent months have seen a number of cinemas punished for box-office fraud. Some were found to have used a "dual software system," allowing them to sell film tickets without registering the real box-office gains to a uniform system.

Another cinema was found to have reported falsified box-office figures, while others were punished for screening unlicensed movies.