A chance to sell more U.S. movies to China 'We're seeing real momentum'

June 18, 1996|By Ian Johnson | Ian Johnson,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

BEIJING -- Every six weeks or so, Chinese newspapers are full of news about the latest Hollywood blockbuster to hit town. Audiences line up and almost every time one record or another is set for tickets sold.

Importing U.S. movies would seem a no-brainer for China's cash-strapped movie industry, but until now central authorities have allowed in only 10 U.S. movies a year. But under yesterday's agreement to protect and promote U.S. intellectual property rights, all that could change.

The limit of 10 films has been lifted, said Michael V. Connors, senior vice president of the Motion Picture Association, a trade group that has worked closely with U.S. trade negotiators.

The China Film Corp. remains the sole arbiter of what films can be imported into China, but formal limits have been lifted, he said.

"We're seeing real momentum," Connors said.

In addition, movie studios will be allowed to find Chinese partners to make films. While China has said it would allow this one day, potential Chinese partners hesitated signing deals until central authorities decided if it really was going to be allowed. Now, Connors said, China has unequivocally committed itself to allowing such joint-ventures.

"The agreement says that U.S. companies may do 'X,' " Acting U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky said. "In this way, there is no ambiguity."

This could make it easier for promising Chinese directors -- several have won awards at prominent film festivals in recent years -- to get what Hollywood has a lot of: money.

And Hollywood could get Chinese talent.

Pub Date: 6/18/96

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