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Print Edition> Lifestyle
UPDATED: September 24, 2012 NO. 39 SEPTEMBER 27, 2012
Moving Pictures
China to reevaluate films jointly produced with the United States
By Yu Yan

ACTION STARS: A promotional image for The Expendables 2, a movie starring Hollywood's best action stars including the Chinese people's favorite Jet Lee (FILE)

China and the United States have long cooperated in creating films, but new rules governing co-productions between the two will give China a greater say in future films.

An official recently announced plans for a more strict review of co-productions at a seminar in Beijing recently, calling for a greater emphasis on domestic contribution.

The declaration could have an effect on a number of upcoming Hollywood movies labeled as co-productions, including The Expendables 2, Iron Man 3 and Cloud Atlas.

New rules

Many of the movies labeled as China-U.S. co-productions are exclusively American stories. "They add some Chinese elements, feature just one or two Chinese actors, and then they call the movies 'co-produced.' This is awful," said Zhang Pimin, Deputy Director of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), at a movie seminar in Beijing on August 23.

Zhang referred to the movies with little or even no investment from the Chinese side as "pseudo-co-productions." If new rules are implemented, SARFT would conduct strict reviews of all submitted co-produced movies, said Zhang.

"The movies must meet a series of requirements before being classified as co-produced movies," said Zhang. "Movies with little or even no Chinese investment can't be identified as co-produced; nor should those with a few added Chinese elements. This is just an attempt by film producers to break into the Chinese market."

According to Provisions on the Administration of China-foreign Cooperation in the Production of Films issued by SARFT in 2004, co-produced movies fall into three categories: First, a movie may be deemed a joint production, if both Chinese and foreign parties invest (including funding or labor), produce together, and share interests and risks.

Second, coordinated productions are those wherein the foreign party contributes capital and carries out shooting in China, while the Chinese party assists by providing equipment, location and labor.

Third, a film could be classified as a co-production by appointment, namely in which the foreign party appoints a Chinese team to carry out production in China on its behalf.

Despite the clear definition of co-production, the administration has not yet defined the ratio of investment or for example, the number of Chinese actors required.

There will likely be more specific regulations in the future, said Shao Qi, an associate professor with Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

According to Zhang, Chinese investment should be no less than one third of the total in co-produced pictures, Chinese actors must play in major roles and the movie must include scenes in China.

Zhang also noted the threat of co-produced movies to domestic films, potentially taking revenue away from the local film industry.

"Recently, a number of imported movies that don't meet the requirements of co-production entered the market. These films occupied a heavy market share, leaving little space for domestic productions to compete," said Zhang.

China imports 34 foreign movies per year—nearly three per month. Each of them can reign atop the box office for a week or 10 days or even a month.

"Against this backdrop, it is urgent to accelerate the development of domestic movies, so that we can promote our culture and values," said Zhang.

Zhang's opinion was echoed by participating experts. They held that the entry of co-produced movies to the domestic market meant an increase of imported movies, which actually squeezes the box office of domestic movies.

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