June 19, 2014 / 12:20 PM / 5 years ago

China to spend $163 mln a year to support movie industry

BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese government will spend 1 billion yuan ($163 million) a year to support the domestic movie industry, including producing films and funding the construction of digital cinemas, state media said on Thursday.

The money will go to help produce five to 10 films a year and build the cinemas mostly in the poorer center and west of the country, the official Xinhua news agency said.

“The cultural development fund will specifically promote movie-making technology, help exports of Chinese films, invest in commercial productions and build film websites,” it said.

Xinhua did not say over how many years the government would provide such funding.

Banks would also be encouraged to lend to the sector, production companies would be encouraged to list on the stock market and issue bonds, and insurance companies would be encouraged to buy stakes in film companies, it added.

Hollywood has traditionally dominated China’s box office, but Chinese films overtook their U.S. rivals in 2013 taking more than 58 percent of the box office, according to state media, and the government has been keen to boost domestic talent.

U.S. studios have been taking steps to appeal to the fast-growing Chinese box office, which hit 21.8 billion yuan last year.

Production companies like Viacom Inc’s Paramount Picture and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc have hired Chinese actors and set up co-productions with Chinese firms to make inroads into the mainland market.

But China’s often draconian film regulators hold a tight grip over the market, controlling the inflow of foreign films in order to protect the box office share of domestic ventures.

($1 = 6.2090 Chinese Yuan Renminbi)

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel

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