No Light For China’s Cinemas As National Film Bureau Emphasizes Streaming Over Theatrical
Art and Experience: China’s National Film Bureau issued its first public statement in months on Friday in which it emphasized ensuring a strong supply of online streaming content, rather than getting cinemas back to work.
The notice comes just two days after Chinese President Xi Jinping took the unusual step of personally commenting on how the film industry should proceed at a time when other businesses are getting back on their feet. He told cinemas to stay shut for the time being.
The short statement said that the bureau was working in collaboration with China’s Ministry of Finance, the top taxation body and other departments to “research and launch… preferential fiscal and taxation exemption policies… so as to actively respond to the epidemic’s impact.”
“At the same time, we will increase our support for the creation and distribution of key films, and guide local governments to introduce policies and measures to bail out film companies and help them develop,” it continued.
It concluded: “The National Film Bureau is also actively organizing high-quality film resources to enrich the supply of online films so as to meet people’s current need for watching movies at home.”
The statement, along with Xi’s comments, are both likely indications that Chinese officials have no immediate plans to re-open cinemas. Around 5% of them had been slowly easing back into business before they were abruptly told to stop operations late last week.
Although some local-level governmental bodies such as the Beijing municipal film bureau have already said they’re looking into similar tax breaks and incentives to help the film industry, this is the first such national-level statement.
Just after the missive was issued Friday afternoon, stocks for film companies such as China Film Group, Huayi Brothers and Wanda Film all spiked upward, each jumping by more 7% just after the statement came out. The burst of confidence didn’t last, however — by the day’s end, their stocks had once again dipped back down slightly, retaining only modest gains.
On Monday, the National Film Bureau also announced a call for proposals for 2020 funding support, saying it sought especially to support films, scripts and productions focused on “key themes such as building a ‘moderately prosperous society,’ the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party, and the novel coronavirus outbreak.” The first category is a common propaganda catchphrase, and means officials will be seeking out content that positively portrays the country’s improving economic circumstances.