China slashes foreign movies shown as industry lies ‘moribund’

Published : 05 Dec 2022 07:45 PM | Updated : 05 Dec 2022 07:45 PM

Officials say 'higher standards' are now being applied to Hollywood's output, with the Avatar sequel now in limbo.

The Chinese Communist Party has slashed the number of foreign movies its censors approve for screening and distribution, in a sign that Chinese leader Xi Jinping is keen to isolate the country culturally from the rest of the world, commentators told RFA on Monday.

Chinese movie-goers were able to see just 38 foreign films in the first 10 months of this year, a sharp fall from 73 for the whole of 2021 and 136 in 2019.

Industry reports said the Hollywood blockbuster Avatar 2 had passed an initial review by the State Radio, Film and Television agency, but is now stuck in limbo, as it hasn't yet received a public performance license.

The last foreign film to be released in China was the 2022 re-release of "Jaws," on Aug. 26.

Vice minister for propaganda Sun Yeli told a news conference in August that the fall in foreign film imports was due to a number of factors, but hinted at "higher standards" being applied to U.S. films.

"Our principle, position and attitude toward exchanges between the Chinese and foreign movie industries are consistent, clear and remain unchanged," Sun said.

U.S. films accounted for 41% of imported movies over the past decade, with 33 grossing more than one billion yuan (U.S. $138 million), and five more than two billion, he said.

"We noticed that U.S. films have been dwindling in the share of the Chinese market. I think there are various reasons for that," he said.

"We are ready to introduce foreign films from any country as long as it can produce the good films that cater to the needs and interests of Chinese audiences," Sun said in comments quoted by the English-language China Daily newspaper at the time.

He said movie producers needed to "respect the cultures, traditions and interests of audiences" and produce "higher-quality" films.