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June 13, 2011

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Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

Murdoch praises exciting Chinese cinema market

MEDIA mogul Rupert Murdoch described China's cinema market as "the most exciting in the world" at the 14th Shanghai International Film Festival yesterday.

Murdoch was speaking at industry summit "Film Dream in the Era of Capital," also attended by his wife Wendi Deng, Thomas Tull, chairman and CEO of Legendary Entertainment, Mike Medavoy, chairman of Phoenix Pictures, and Ren Zhonglun, president of Shanghai Film Group Corporation.

Foreign guests expressed their admiration for the thriving Chinese film industry.

Chinese box office takings surged 64 percent over 2009 to more than 10 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion) last year and the country added 313 movie theaters and 1,533 new screens, for a current total of about 6,200 screens. The number of screens is projected to reach 20,000 in five years.

"China's box office grows at an average rate of more than 40 percent every year," said Murdoch. "There is no more exciting film market in the world."

He is eager for more future collaboration opportunities with local filmmakers to co-produce movies or bring Chinese pictures to the world.

He also urged China to further open up its movie market.

China maintains import restrictions that effectively limit the country to 20 foreign blockbusters a year. Film imports are still controlled by the state-owned China Film Group.

"This presents significant challenges," Murdoch said, adding that limited access to foreign content encourages piracy.

"In the long run, it will only limit the opportunity for China to grow its cinema market. As China's theatrical market tries to continue to grow, it is critical to fill the pipeline with more local films as well as more films imported from other countries."

In addition to infrastructure and film technology, he advised local authorities and filmmaking groups to promote creativity and originality and attach importance to the emerging new media platforms to provide more ways for people to enjoy movies.

Deng shared her first film production experience on the Sino-American movie "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan," an epic tale of the bonds of friendship and family between two women.

She said the relatively low costs of filmmaking in China was a big factor behind her decision to shoot the movie here.

Hollywood veterans

"I'm willing to introduce more Hollywood veterans to cooperate with Chinese peers," Deng said. "Co-production is a good way for Chinese cinema to increase its international influence."

Deng's film, which stars China's Li Bingbing, South Korea's Gianna Jun and Hollywood star Hugh Jackman, is due for national release on June 24.

Chinese-American director Wayne Wang's adaptation of the Lisa See novel by the same name will be distributed in North America by News Corp's Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Ren, a co-producer of "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan," revealed that his film group plans to have four co-productions with foreign companies this year.

Tull said his criteria for future co-productions were movies with universal themes and global appeal.

Legendary Entertainment recently completed a deal with China's Huayi Brothers Media Corporation to form Legendary East, a new film and TV company based in Hong Kong.

The new venture plans to make or co-produce English-language films and TV shows in China that can be exported worldwide.


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