China’s heyday is not lost on foreign companies who are rushing to export films from their catalogues, with France and the United States topping the list. However, distribution problems abound, attributing heavily to a quota system that limits the number of feature films to 70 per year, rendering market accessibility much more complex.

Conquering through co-production

The solution to thwarting the quotas and limitations that inhibit the promotion and renumeration of foreign distributors remains co-production. Stamped with the seal of dual-citizenship, co-produced works become “local”, allowing producers to bypass the quota system and easily penetrate the Chinese market.

Since the implementation of the Franco-Chinese agreement in 2010, the two countries have jointly appeared in the credits of several feature films; notably Le Dernier Loup de Jean-Jacques Annaud. Likewise, bridges to facilitate partnerships are beginning to emerge. In 2015, the American corporation Lionsgate endorsed a broadcasting and production agreement with TIK Films. Meanwhile, the French distribution company Wild Bunch created an investment fund in collaboration with China Film and TV Capital, launching the CEFF (China Europe Film Fund).

What are the restrictions?

For now, the partnerships between the People’s Republic and other nations remain relatively recent and the Chinese system is yet to be streamlined.

Producers eager to conquer the Chinese market will face some government interference, as every feature that is filmed or distributed within the territory must be approved by the Chinese Film Bureau. They must also deal with the eclectic taste of moviegoers and theatre operators. Experimental features and art films struggle to find their place in the market, often being dropped in favour of blockbusters and family-friendly releases which generate more profit.

In terms of technical constraints, of which co-productions face plenty, the situation is hardly more restrictive than elsewhere: a third of the film must be financed by the Chinese partner, the work must be partially filmed in China, and one third of the actors must be of Chinese nationality.

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Le cinéma français a-t-il une chance en Chine ?, Ina Global, 10/02/2016

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