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Rupert Murdoch has warned that China will encourage piracy and limit opportunities for its own movie market if it does not open up to foreign films.
Delivering a speech on ‘Film Dream in the Era of Capital’ at the Shanghai International Film Festival, the News Corp. chairman praised China’s optimism, global aspirations and creativity, saying there was “no more exciting market in the world”. Murdoch noted that China is the fastest growing film market in the world, with box office takings expanding from $150 million in 2005 to $1.5 billion in 2010.
He nevertheless urged China to further open up its movie market. China maintains import restrictions that effectively limit the country to 20 foreign blockbusters a year. Film imports are still controlled by the state-owned China Film Group.
“This presents significant challenges for US studios like ours [20th Century Fox]. More important, it creates incentives for people to steal what they do not have access to. In the long run, that will only limit the opportunity for China to grow its booming market,” he said.
Murdoch said that “strong and enforceable intellectual property rights” were equally important to western and local producers.
His comments reflected widespread concern in Hollywood that restrictions on legitimate imports of western films have encouraged piracy and hit prospects for home entertainment revenues from DVD and video-on-demand sales.