China and U.K. Sign Film Co-production Agreement

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British Culture Minister Ed Vaizey

Chinese and Britain formally approve a pact aimed at giving Britain’s filmmakers better access to the booming Chinese market.

The much-hyped film co-production agreement between Britain and China became a reality on Wednesday when Britain’s culture minister, Ed Vaizey, and Tong Gang, the vice minister of the State Administration of Radio, Film & Television, formally signed off on the treaty, which will allow Sino-British co-productions to sidestep China's quota system for foreign films.

It is hoped the treaty, brokered by the British Film Institute and flagged in advance of prime minister David Cameron's visit last year to China, will open up the Chinese market for British cinema. China's current quota system means just 34 foreign films a year are allowed in on a revenue-sharing basis.

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Under the agreement, qualifying co-productions will also be able to access sources of financing from both national governments, such as the U.K.'s film tax credit system and the U.K.'s public film fund, the BFI, as well as Chinese sources.

According to Chinese media, the qualified films will be honored “statehood,” which means the co-production films won't be subject to China’s foreign-film-import quota.

For British filmmakers and the U.K. industry, the treaty could mean greater access to the world's fastest-growing cinema market. China‘s film entertainment sector, including cinema, video-on-demand and DVD, was estimated to be worth $3.26 billion in 2012, the last year for which figures are available. Films made as China-U.K. co-productions will be able to access the world's second-biggest box office audience, worth $2.7 billion last year and forecast to grow to $5.5 billion by 2017.

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Earlier this week, the British Film Institute and the mayor of London Boris Johnson announced that they would link up to host a four-day celebration of Chinese culture and film in September, featuring China’s largest collaboration with the Mayor’s Thames Festival in the British capital and a new industry event to encourage creative and business links between the British and Chinese film industries.