Cinema scams

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-02-26 08:47:49

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China's film industry may be on a spectacular takeoff, but not everyone in the game is patient enough to get his share legally, writes Raymond Zhou.

In 2013, China achieved a record-breaking high for its film industry's box-office revenues, which officially register at 21.769 billion yuan ($3.59 billion). But according to Wang Changtian, CEO of Enlight, that was at least 5 billion yuan short of the real number. Other experts put the gap at 2.4 billion, explaining the reported box-office figure at 10 percent less than the real one. That gap is someone's windfall, illegally pocketed by cinema owners and operators, professionally known as film exhibitors. And the regulating agency is getting tough on this kind of theft.

Wang Changtian has reasons to be angry. Over the Lunar New Year season that has recently wound down, he received on his microblog numerous audience reports, complete with photos, of tickets to Dad, Where Are We Going?, a runaway hit his company distributes. The tickets had no movie title printed on them or the prices printed were lower than what was actually paid by the moviegoers - all signs that the movie's revenues were not correctly registered.

The earliest manifestation of the shady practice of "box-office stealing" loomed a few years ago when individual moviegoers posted suspicious tickets online. Tickets of this type usually had movie title "A" computer-printed on it, but the printed title was scratched out by hand and title "B" written in. Fingers were pointed at the producer or distributor of title A, but more likely it was the movie theater that was behind it. The reason could be simple: Film A gives the exhibitor a larger share of the revenue than film B.

Related stories:

New measures tackle box-office fraud

China's 2013 box office nears 21.8 bln yuan

Top 10 box office hits in 2013

For more stories by Raymond Zhou, click here

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