Chinese moviegoers may have access to more foreign movie releases in theaters in upcoming months as rumors swirl that China’s Film Bureau may increase the foreign movie quota by 10 more movies.
According to an exclusive by The Hollywood Reporter, Beijing is considering raising the quota of foreign films allowed for release in Chinese movie theaters to 44 a year, a sign of growing cooperation between Hollywood and China’s often restrictive media bureau.
“We are examining raising the quota of foreign movies right now, probably by around 10 films,” an anonymous inside source told THR. “It’s being discussed but we haven’t made a decision yet.” Though a deadline for the decision was not disclosed, changes could be made as soon as March, during China’s annual parliament meeting, The National People’s Congress (NPC) gathering, in Beijing.
China’s strong 2014 box office performance thus far has helped make a good case for an ease in the strict quota, which hasn’t been changed since 2012, which bumped the quota from 20 to 34. According to Variety, Chinese box office numbers between Jan. 31 and Feb. 6 of this year totaled 1.39 billion RMB, or about $228 million, during the weeklong period. This is an enormous improvement compared to just one year prior, with an 81 percent jump.
A new movie quota, which would continue on a revenue-sharing basis with the Western companies and the Chinese, would allow more access to the world’s second-largest box-office market. As a result of China’s growing middle class with disposable income, moviegoing has become increasingly popular. This, in conjunction with China’s plans to add several thousand movie theaters across the nation over the next few years, means the country is slated to surpass the American film industry in box office spending.
Chinese releases are coveted by many Hollywood films. Tapping into a potential market of 1.3 billion people, is extremely valuable, particularly for big-budget blockbusters.
Though already wildly popular in the U.S. market, Disney’s newest Princess franchise installment, "Frozen," pushed past the $900 million mark after opening in China, earning $13.7 million during its Lunar New Year opening, a particularly competitive time, making it the second-biggest Disney animation opening ever in China. If marketed appropriately, Chinese audiences have the ability to breathe new life into a box office flop. 2012 sci-fi flick "John Carter" may have been a U.S. box office bomb, but in China, where action movies, particularly those with 3D elements, thrive, it scored $29.8 million in its first 10 days of release, more than $26 million above most of the movie’s other international markets.