More Chinese movie-goers are really loving American cinema, says MPAA

chinaIt seems 2012 a good year for American cinema – at least as far as making money is concerned. In addition to producing the third most successful movie of all time in Marvel’s The Avengers, a plethora of successful movies brought box office totals last year to a total of $23.1 billion in the U.S. and Canada alone, up almost a billion dollars on the 2011 total. It wasn’t just in the U.S. that American movies ruled supreme, however. According to the current head of the Motion Picture Association of America, one of the most surprising growth markets for the year was in China.

Chris Dodd, the former senator from Connecticut revealed the surprising news during an appearance at the National Press Club. “Chinese box office receipts grew a staggering 31 percent—to about $2.75 billion,” Dodd told the assembled audience, pointing out that such growth turned the country into the second largest international market for American movies behind Japan. He also said that there are now more than 11,000 cinema screens in China, with that number expected to double by 2015.

What is particularly surprising about Dodd’s announcement was that it was only recently that many in Hollywood believed Chinese officials had placed an unspoken ban on American movies. The ban came as a potential response to U.S.’s attempt to pressure China into cracking down on movie piracy and tightening copyright and intellectual property laws.

Recently, Chinese authorities started to approve less U.S. movies for release in the country, with the MPAA’s then-chairman, Dan Glickman, telling the New York Times “I don’t have any confirmation that they have taken action. But if they have in fact established an official or unofficial block on our films that would be a strong step backwards.”

In general, China limits the number of foreign films shown in the country, a fact that makes the U.S. growth all the more impressive – while also making the need to combat piracy even more important. After all, Dodd says, “no other major American industry has a balance of trade as posiitve in every nation on the globe in which it does business as the American film industry,” pointing out that the U.S. film and television industries made around $14.2 billion in 2012 alone.

The argument that any business is, essentially, “too big to fail” and therefore deserves all protections imaginable afforded to it; After all, the movie industry and media in general is one of the U.S.’ prime exports, but couldn’t the argument also be made that – with box office up so much internationally and domestically – piracy clearly isn’t having the detrimental effect that many assume it has?

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