China’s film industry promotion up for ratification by NPC

Approved by the State Council at an executive meeting chaired by premier Li Keqiang on Sept. 1, the long-expected draft for the China Film Industry Promotion Law will soon be up for deliberation and final ratification by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), reports Shanghai’s China Business News.

“If the law is ratified by the NPC, it will greatly help to upgrade the cultural sector and promote a healthy development of the film industry in China,” Wei Pengju, dean of the Cultural Economics Research Institute at the Central University of Finance and Economics, told the paper.

Under the draft law, the government will enforce a spate of incentives in financing, taxation, investment and land utilization to encourage enterprises and individuals to join the film industry.

The government will set up special funds to boost the film industry, allow tax exemptions for those engaged in the creative production, shooting, issuance and screening of homegrown films, and encourage banks, insurance firms and loan guarantors to provide various financing, insurance, and guarantee services to film production enterprises.

Other incentives, such as acquisition of land lots needed, will be offered to encourage firms to build new movie theaters or overhaul existing ones, while preferential terms will be also available to pump social resources into the film industry.

“As the film industry will develop rapidly on the incentives, it’s just a matter of time for Chinese films to score annual box office revenues of up to 300 billion yuan (US$47.1 billion),” Wang Lu, a noted film producer, said optimistically.

The draft film promotion law has spent a long time in the slow cooker. In early 2004, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) announced that the draft version would be formulated in May and submitted to the State Council in June, and the draft law would be available October for public comments in November and December.

In August 2005, Zhao Shi, then deputy director of the SARFT, said that his administration would manage to submit the official draft of the law to the State Council and the NPC for deliberation and ratification in 2006.

Zhao’s remarks came as encouraging news to China’s film industry, which produced as many as 260 films in 2005, up 22.5% from a year earlier, raking in annual box office revenues of 2 billion yuan (US$314.6 million) for a yearly growth of 27.4%, with both growth rates far higher than the nation’s 12% GDP growth for that year. In addition, the industry witnessed active investments in diversified operations, such as producing films with private and overseas funds or shooting scenes abroad, with annual investment totaling 1.6 billion yuan (US$251.7 million) in 2005.

But the draft law failed to be legislated in 2006 and dragged on for several years before the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council issued an announcement on Dec. 15, 2011 for soliciting opinions from related government units, local governments, industry experts and scholars on the draft law. In June 2014, seven central government units including the Ministry of Finance, the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), a merger enforced in 2013 between the SARFT and General Administration of Press and Publication, jointly issued a set of guidelines on the film industry development, pledging to boost the overall strength and competitiveness of Chinese films. On February 26 this year, Cai Fuchao, head of the SAPPRFT, called for accelerating the legislation of the draft law when reporting at a party meeting.

“From a certain angle, if the law is passed this year, it will be more meaningful than in 2006, given the robust development of the film industry over the past decade,” said Wang Lu. China’s annual box office revenues shot up to 29.6 billion yuan (US$4.7 billion) in 2014 from only one billion yuan (US$157.3 million) in 2003, with annual growth exceeding 36% over the years. This year, the figure had already exceeded 29 billion yuan (US$4.56 billion) as of August 31.

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