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New law on movies offers incentives to investors

BEIJING - China on Thursday began soliciting public submissions on a draft law aimed at spurring the development of the country's movie industry by offering more incentives to movie producers and reaching out to a wider audience.

The draft law on movie promotion, published on the website of the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, or China's Cabinet, lowered the threshold for movie sponsorship by allowing both enterprises and individuals to invest through simplified procedures.

State-owned and private enterprises will both be able to apply for filmmaker licenses after releasing at least two movies that do not violate Chinese law, according to the draft law.

Overseas enterprises can participate in China's movie-making operations via cooperations with their Chinese counterparts, according to the draft law.

The state will increase its investment and offer financial incentives, such as tax breaks, in the movie industry, while employing "forceful measures" to tackle movie-related copyright infringements, the draft says.

With an annual output of over 500 films, China boasts the world's third largest film industry after India and the United States.

To date, the country has more than 9,000 cinema screens, with an average of eight more being added daily, according to statistics released by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), the country's broadcasting regulator.

Movies screened in China last year took in more than 10 billion yuan ($1.57 billion) at the box office, an almost 64-percent increase from 2009, according to the SARFT.

However, the movie industry's success has largely been in cities, with the country's vast rural areas lagging behind in the rapid expansion of cinemas.

In a bid to reach out to more audiences in both urban and rural areas as well as more age groups, the draft law proposes screening at least one free film each month in every rural village, and including at least two films each semester during students' compulsory education period.

It also says that local governments could subsidize cinema tickets for young or low-income groups to meet their basic culture needs.

While emphasizing the growth of the movie industry, the draft law, authored by the SARFT, is more strict in regards to movie content.

Movie plots that infringe on the lawful rights and interests of minors, or those considered harmful to young audiences' physical and mental health will be banned from the screen under the new draft law.

It also prohibits producers from advocating obscenity, drug-taking or criminal acts in their movies, and movies are not allowed to hype up terror or violence.

The draft law is available at www.chinalaw.gov.cn, and feedback via online posts, letters and e-mails will be accepted until Jan. 15, 2012.

In most cases, a draft law will be read two or three times by the top legislature before being passed.

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