[SHANGHAI] China is likely to raise the quota of imported films allowed into the country, the state-run Global Times newspaper said, a potential fillip for Hollywood producers who are increasingly looking to tap the country's fast-growing box office.
The official newspaper, citing experts, predicted around a dozen films could be added to the current annual quota of 34 imported movies, while foreign producers would get closer to the 40 per cent of ticket revenues they receive in other overseas markets. That would be up from the current 25 per cent.
The Global Times, a tabloid more commonly known for writing strongly-worded, hawkish and nationalist editorials, is published by the ruling Communist Party's flagship paper.
Hollywood has been pushing for more foreign firms to be screened in Chinese theatres ahead of key talks this year to review the current five-year agreement, signed in February 2012.
Hollywood executives have voiced hopes China will increase the quota and the share of revenues more in line with international markets. But talks have been clouded by the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, who has openly criticised China on trade and the sensitive issue of Taiwan.
Mr Trump, in a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday morning China time, gave Hollywood a potential boost when he softened his stance on Taiwan and agreed to honour the longstanding "one China" policy.
China's cinema ticket sales slowed last year, rising 3.2 per cent against the year before to 45.3 billion yuan (S$9.33 billion), according to data from box office tracker EntGroup. That compared to nearly 50 per cent growth in 2015.
However, the market is becoming increasingly important for US producers from Walt Disney Co to Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros, helping add US$1.8 billion in ticket sales to Hollywood's 20 highest-grossing films in 2016.