Washington, Dec.6 : Disagreements with U.S. trade policy and the recent success of American movies at the expense of Chinese films has prompted the Chinese authorities to ban the screening of American movies for at least three months.
According to a report in the Daily Variety, the ban has come into fact since last Saturday (December 1) and will continue at least till the end of February. Chinese sources, however, say it could continue until May 2008.
The Central Government order was issued through the State Administration for Film Radio and Television or the Film Bureau, which normally handles movie industry policy and application. The ruling is said to have emanated from the Propaganda Ministry.
U.S. studio distribution executives have refused to comment on the development.
Normally, the majors would by now have had approval for films that qualify under the quota system, which permits 20 foreign films per year to be released on a revenue-sharing basis. They also report that the Film Bureau's censorship committee is not even interested in screening their movies.
Four films that would normally have expected to be cleared for release in January or February have been locked out: Disney's "Enchanted," DreamWorks' "Bee Movie," Paramount's "Stardust" and Warner's "Beowulf." Sony's "The Pursuit of Happyness" was cleared by censors, but also finds itself shut out.
The ban was not announced in writing, but some Chinese exhibitors became aware of the policy last week at an exhib convention held in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, on the eve of this week's CineAsia confab in Macau.
Reasons for the drastic action are threefold and appear to be a mixture of major politics and industry issues.
First, the ban is another example of the growing rift between China and the U.S. as the former becomes an economic, military and political powerhouse. China recently expressed its displeasure over the U.S. sale of weapons to Taiwan and objected to Congress honoring the Dalai Lama.
That resulted in a diplomatic spat, with the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier barred from visiting Hong Kong for Thanksgiving and U.S. minesweepers denied shelter in a storm. U.S. responded by sailing the warship through the Taiwan Strait.
Second, the film ban is seen in some quarters as retaliation against the Motion Picture Association's studio members for persuading the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to take action against China through the World Trade Organization over intellectual property protection and market access.
A third reason for the ban is that such blackouts are one of China's regular exercises in massaging figures so that local films have at least half the box office. (ANI)
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