Report: Chinese boxoffice to double by decade's end

But gov't, piracy seen as impediments

Boxoffice revenue in China is predicted to more than double by 2010, according to a report published by research specialist Screen Digest and Nielsen NRG (HR 2/2).

"China: The Opportunities for the Cinema Industry" says that boxoffice returns tripled to $336 million from 2001 to 2006. Screen Digest forecasts that by 2010, revenue will exceed $720 million.

The research also predicts that the number of screens will rocket upward in line with revenue growth ? almost doubling from 2,940 in 2005 to 5,000 in 2010.

The report also looks at three major obstacles facing players looking to get a slice of the action in China: The government has only partially liberalized the market to allow foreign investment; piracy is "a major challenge for any company trying to make a profit from film"; and the fact that the majority of Chinese people never visit a cinema or even have access to one.

The report identifies a "cinema class" of urban, middle-class consumers who can afford the high ticket prices of 30 yuan-80 yuan ($3.50-$10) for a standard seat and 120 yuan ($15) for a VIP seat, some of who go to see a film at one of China's new modern cinemas seven times a year on average.

This group is estimated to represent just 19% of the population, yet the appetite for films across the entire Chinese population "is potentially huge," the report says.