China Passes Film Law to Combat Box Office Fraud, Promote ‘Socialist Core Values’

Potentially problematic for U.S. filmmakers: Country bans collaboration with overseas companies engaged in “activities damaging China’s national dignity”

China’s top legislature passed a new law which will set forth new guidelines for the country’s rapidly expanding film and theater industry, the first such law of its kind in the country.

Under the new legislation passed Monday,  film distributors caught trying to “fabricate box office earnings, data or information” will face a fine of up to 500,000 yuan — approximately $73,800.

If their illegal earnings exceed 500,000 yuan, they could face fines up to five times their illegal earnings. They could also have their business certificates revoked if the case is serious enough, according to China’s Xinhua news agency.

That portion of the law will no doubt be celebrated by Hollywood, which is increasingly looking to the Chinese box office for healthy returns on major releases, like Marvel’s “Doctor Strange.” The new Benedict Cumberbatch film opened to $44.4 million in China, bringing it’s worldwide opening weekend to over $325 million.

Another portion of the new law, however, may prove problematic for U.S. filmmakers. It vaguely states that Chinese companies can collaborate with overseas companies on film projects, except for those overseas companies engaged in “activities damaging China’s national dignity, honor and interests, or harming social stability or hurting national feelings.”

The law also states that theaters must ensure that domestic films comprise no less than two thirds of the annual screening time of all films in the country, and that the Chinese government will support films that promote “socialist core values.”

Finally, the law will impose new restrictions on Chinese actors, stating they and other film staff must be “excellent in both moral integrity and film art.” In 2014, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television banned screening any work involving anyone who had engaged in criminal activity.