A palpable sense of excitement is starting to build here in Beijing as the Third Beijing International Film Festival approaches. Taking place April 16 – 23, The Beijing International Film Festival (BIFF) is emerging as a natural focal point for Hollywood’s preoccupation with the Chinese film business and has already become a regular date on the international festival circuit. This is hardly surprising, given Chinese box office growth of 36% in 2011 — growth that allowed China to overtake Japan and become the second-biggest film market. Compare that to a flat performance at best in the US during the same period and you get some idea of what is driving Hollywood’s interest, if not its anxiety.

Tickets for the Sino-Foreign Film Co-Production Forum on April 21 will be red hot and places at the MPA’s Film Workshops on April 21 and 22 are already in great demand.

Though this is always a very busy period for us as clients and friends fly into Beijing from all over the world, I will try to provide some updates and observations as the Festival progresses.

The following are already hot topics:

  • Why did the Chinese censors pull Tarantino’s Django Unchained on its opening day in China?
  • Does the huge success of purely Chinese films such as Lost In Thailand and Journey to the West presage a new era in which Hollywood films are marginalized in China? (Hollywood certainly hopes not).
  • What will the recently-announced merger of SARFT and GAPP mean for foreign producers and distributors? What will the new “super-agency” even be called?
  • When pictures like Iron Man 3  reportedly opt out of official co-production status (and the larger share of box office that goes with it) does this mean that co-productions are just too hard?
  • Will the new national administration relax the de facto prohibition on co-production joint ventures (i.e. permanent legal entities with physical assets and ongoing operations in China) as opposed to the restrictions on co-productions (i.e. discrete pictures made in cooperation with a Chinese partner)?

If I find anyone with the answers I’ll be sure to let you know. What do you think?