The Chinese film industry's top regulator will strictly implement the regulations for international co-productions, a senior official has said.
Zhang Pimin, deputy head of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, said the administration has noticed a tendency in international co-productions that may harm the local film industry. "A complete American story with a small Chinese element and a Chinese actor, and they call it a co-production."
Zhang did not reveal which film he was referring to, but recent co-productions such as Cloud Atlas, Looper and Expendables 2 each has only one Chinese actress as the supporting role.
China imports 34 foreign films a year for theatrical release, but co-productions are exempt from the quota and treated as domestic films.
According to Wang Fan, a researcher of co-productions at the China Film Art Research Center, under current policies of the administration a co-produced film needs to be co-invested and co-shot by Chinese and overseas studios. They share the copyright, risks and profits. The story can happen in any country, but the plot must have something to do with China. At least one-third of the main cast should be from China. The crew should contain Chinese and overseas staff.
"All the criteria for an international co-produced film should be fulfilled," Zhang said at a seminar on domestic films on Thursday.
"Some unqualified co-productions have marginalized real domestic films in the market."
By the end of June, China's box office reached 8.07 billion yuan ($1.28 billion), a 41.7 percent growth over the same period in 2011. In addition, 379 new theaters and 1,664 new screens have been built.
But according to Zhang, only 30 percent of the revenue came from domestic productions.
Also at the seminar, Zhang admitted for the first time the existence of the rumored "protective months for domestic films".
"We do this to save some space for Chinese films in July and August," he said.
In the two months, which fall during the summer holiday, only two major Hollywood films, Ice Age 4 and The Lorax, were released. But Zhang tried to justify the administration's motive to adopt the measure.
"We are under great pressure," he said. "People do not see every film. They choose visually stunning ones. And among the 34 imported films, 14 are in 3-D or IMAX."
Some blockbuster Hollywood films have been postponed to late August and September.
Warner Bros.' Batman sequel The Dark Knight Rises and Sony Pictures' reboot The Amazing Spider-Man have both been scheduled to open on Aug 27, while 20th Century Fox's Prometheus will premiere on Sept 2.
Geng Yuejin, a senior industry insider, appreciates the authorities' efforts to protect domestic films, but he called for a more open environment for local filmmakers, which he thinks solves the real problem.
"Fewer American films do not guarantee a rise in box office for local films," he said. "Ultimately we need higher quality work, which requires a rating system and looser censorship."