It’s hard not to get carried away by Hollywood’s breathless reaction to the US-China film deal announced during Xi Jinping’s recent visit to LA and apparently struck in “down to the wire” talks with Vice President Joe Biden. The deal is variously described as a ‘trade accord’ or a ‘trade agreement’. Whatever it may be, MPAA is “celebrating” and the White House is heralding it as a “breakthrough.”

But just where is the public acknowledgement of the deal by Chinese officials?

Depending on whose account we read, we are told that the deal:

  • adds 14 3-D and large format films to China’s existing quota of 20 on which box office revenue may be shared;
  • increases the share of box office available on quota films from around 13% to around 25%;
  • increases by an unspecified amount the license fees available to ‘independent’ films, presumably those films which are neither quota films nor official co-productions; and
  • allows “other distributors, apart from China Film Group, to distribute films in China.

Call me a cynical lawyer, but I must ask whether anyone outside the Office of the US Trade Representative has actually seen the document recording the deal? (If anyone has seen that document, would they please send it to me because I am very interested in its details.) In the meantime, we are adrift in a whirlpool of contradictory and ambiguous commentary on this.

There is also a big question mark over the legal effect of the deal. Just when does all of this come into effect in China?

So my take on all this right now is that it appears to be good news, but I am reserving full judgment and analysis until there is at least some more detail.

For more on this “breakthrough,” check out the following:

For more on China’s film/media industry, check out the following:

What are you hearing?

  • Aussie Newcast

    I think this news carried elsewhere. But good to see Mat making a name for himself amongst the Aussie Beijing crew and an interview in last weeks SCMP. Why not carry that? Bit more interesting than anything else been going on, expat lawyer with his wife & kids….he’s your local Beijing Aussie guy right, give him some local kudos?

  • I’ve submitted a request for the document with USTR, but I’m not sure what the exact status of this kind of document is.
    Also, apart from the concerns which you rightly mention, there are also some issues regarding international trade: would this be considered as problematic from an MFN point of view? What will the status of this commitment be?
    Lastly, even if we assume that the statement that distribution will be opened up is true, foreign films can still only make up a third of cinema screening time. Hence, while there might be more films, they would still have to share the same proportion of screening minutes.

  • Mi Fu

    I hope also more Chinese films will be exported and translated into foreign languages.

  • It seems to be a good news,but most people in China is more likely to see movies through a large amount of free on-line video services such as Xunlei or download for free,there are much more movies that has not been officially imported are actually seen by all the Chinese.It makes no differences.