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MPAA's Chris Dodd to Chinese film community: 'We're here to help'

In a bid to open doors in China, Hollywood's new chief lobbyist simultaneously prodded and praised the country's creative community.

In his keynote speech at the Shanghai International Film Festival on Monday, Motion Picture Assn. of America Chief Executive Chris Dodd urged the Chinese film community to broaden its engagement with the world and suggested Hollywood expertise could help it reach its full potential.

“China’s movie market is a success story in the making,” Dodd said. “All the ingredients are there for China’s film industry to become a major player on the world stage, just as China has always been a major player on the world cultural stage.”

The former U.S. senator also highlighted the important relationship between the American film industry and Chinese filmmakers and Chinese audiences. “One of my top priorities as a representative of the American film industry is to build upon that relationship, to help it deepen and blossom, so that it can form the foundation for a world-class film and cultural sector,” Dodd said.

In the last decade, the number of films produced in China has grown from dozens each year to hundreds -- 526 in 2010 alone. The number of cinema screens has increased to 6,200 and is expected to more than double by 2015, to more than 16,000. And box office revenues, which passed $1.5 billion last year, are forecast to more than triple by 2015, to $5 billion.

But China's restrictions on foreign films has frustrated Hollywood. China allows only about 20 foreign films into the country each year under a revenue-sharing agreement in which studios collect less than 20% of box office revenue, compared with more than twice that in the United States and other international markets.

Dodd and other MPAA officials have been assisting U.S. trade officials in an effort to craft a compromise that would end a long-running trade dispute with China. Under one scenario being discussed, China would expand the revenue-sharing quota to as much as 40 foreign films. Although talks are underway between U.S. trade officials and their counterparts in China, it's not when, or even if, a deal will be reached.

Although Dodd is not directly involved in the negotiations, during his trip to China he will meet with senior government and industry leaders as well as executives from the country’s leading film studios and entertainment companies.

-- Richard Verrier

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