Last week, an event was held in Hong Kong where, among other things, it was said that a second distribution license to import and release movies in China is being issued to the China National Culture & Art Corporation (CNCAC). Such a license could spell the demise of China Film Group‘s exclusive grip on Mainland revenue-share releasing — and create another potential partner for Hollywood. While there has been talk that a new government-approved distributor could emerge, a number of China-watchers have remained cautious on the timing, and just who the involved parties would be. One told me recently, “Many believe they can in due course obtain a second license.” Now, reported comments from an official at the Chinese state watchdog, and the revision of an announcement by Hong Kong-based China Railsmedia, which held the press conference and has business connections with the CNCAC, seem to confuse things even further.
China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television is getting tough with cinema operators. The authority outlined new measures this week designed to prevent movie theater managers from manipulating box office figures and defrauding the government and rights holders. According to FilmBizAsia, SAPPRFT’s memo on the matter, aka “A Notification Regarding the Strengthening of Film Ticketing System’s Management Practices,” is the first major revision of regulations in the sector since 2005. It’s widely said that theaters hide income from the government which takes a 3% value-added tax on revenues as well as a 5% film fund tax. Local distributors usually have a 42% revenue share with exhibitors, and U.S. studios are entitled to receive 25% of the share. China’s reported box office in 2013 was $3.6B, but the state-controlled Xinhua news agency says industry experts believe the real figure is at least 10% higher. FBA says that insiders have claimed as much as $826M, or 18.7%, of box office sales was not reported last year.
Is China-Hollywood “Gatekeeper” Han Sanping Segueing Out At China Film Group Amid Big Changes Atop Local Biz?
EXCLUSIVE: As Hollywood continues to learn the ropes in China, I’m hearing that there are a host of big management shifts coming at the upper echelons of the Chinese film business. There have been rumors for some time that …
A representative of China Film Group today called Keanu Reeves’ upcoming Man Of Tai Chi “the most important co-production” for the company this year. Reeves makes his directorial debut with the kung-fu film that is a co-production from CFG, Wanda Media, Village Roadshow Pictures Asia and Universal Pictures. At a gathering to introduce clips from the film, Reeves said he shot for more than 105 days in Beijing and Hong Kong, where the crew was at one point locked on a set because of a severe typhoon. He chose this movie to make his helming debut because it was “the story I felt I could tell and wanted to tell and didn’t want anybody else to tell.”
Man Of Tai Chi focuses on a young, innocent martial artist who struggles to maintain his values amid the pressures of contemporary society. Tiger Chen plays the man who is lured into the underground boxing world where Reeves plays the man out to manipulate him. Reeves and Chen worked together on the Matrix movies where Chen taught Reeves about “wires and kicks and punches.” The pair became friends and over five years developed the story. Reeves says it was just about “four or five years ago that I started to think about directing. But I always said I would only direct if I had a story to tell.”
Giving himself an extra challenge, the story is told in Mandarin, Cantonese and English. Reeves says, “I had to listen. The process was very collaborative. I had great support in terms of translators, casting or working on a scene… As an actor, you’re part of telling a story and as a director you’re responsible for it, but you can’t do it yourself so the collaboration was the gift.”
Back in February, the U.S. and China agreed to significantly increase the number of imported films allowed to be shown in Chinese movie theaters. The move has “shaken” the local industry, radio-film-TV vice minister Tian Jin said today in Beijing. “This has brought handsome profits to the American film industry, but has also posed pressure and challenge to the Chinese film industry,” he commented at a press conference on the sidelines of the Communist Party’s 18th congress, AFP reports. “Domestic films are facing great pressure,” said Tian, who vice minister of China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. “The objective reason is that more foreign films in the Chinese market have dealt a blow to domestic films, and the subjective reason is that the domestic film industry needs to be more competitive,” he said. Box office is up 40% on last year, Tian noted, at $2.1B as of the end of October. However, the local share of that pie was only 40%.