In a week filled with passing new laws, China’s top legislature also made time on Monday to adopt a new set of regulations concerning the film industry which will impose penalties on box office fabricators and help to insure that movies better serve the state and socialist values.
The new film industry law was approved by the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee at the end of their latest busy session in Beijing. It states that film agencies and theaters caught inflating box office numbers will have their illegitimate earnings confiscated and be fined up to 500,000 yuan. If the film managed to take in more than 500,000 yuan in ill-gotten gains, that penalty could then become as much as five times their illegal earnings. Depending on the severity of the situation, the guilty firms could also have their operations suspended.
This kind of fraud is rampant in China where hyping big box office numbers has become one of the most effective strategies for promoting a film. Last year, broadcasters gave out over 40 million free tickets to help make the domestic animated blockbuster “Monster Hunt” China’s top grossing movie of all-time (it has since been passed by Stephen Chow’s “The Mermaid”). Earlier this year, the distributor of “Ip Man 3” was suspended after it was found that they had inflated the film’s box office numbers by 88 million yuan through some creative accounting and simply buying up tickets.
In addition to cracking down on box office fraud, the new law also promises to take an even closer look at the content of films before they are released to the public. Currently, only 34 foreign movies are allowed to be shown on Chinese screens each year (though somehow a few extra slipped in this year). The competition to be one those lucky films is intense. In order to please Chinese audiences and censors, Hollywood has been known to go to great lengths, cutting out scenes of aliens blowing holes in the Great Wall of China and adding in unnecessary ones featuring Fan Bingbing.
To help out Hollywood, the new law includes a long list of things that will get a film banned on the mainland, including content that “jeopardizes national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, releases national secrets, endangers state security, damages national dignity, honor and interests, or advocates terrorism and extremism,” according to a report from China’s official Xinhua News Agency.
At the same time, the regulation hopes to promote domestic films that “champion excellent Chinese culture and socialist core values.”
In order to get around the film quotas, Hollywood companies have begun to partner with domestic groups to make movies that won’t technically count as foreign films. The new law warns Chinese film companies against cooperating with overseas organizations and individuals that engage in “activities damaging China’s national dignity, honor and interests, or harming social stability or hurting national feelings.” Looking at you, Brad Pitt.
Finally, the law specifies that actors and directors ought to be “excellent in integrity and film art” while maintaining self-discipline and building a positive public image. Looking at you, Jaycee Chan.
The whole thing will go into effect on March 1st, 2017.