Fifteen cinemas in different provinces have been penalized for illegal ticket sales, a move perceived as a hard clampdown on the malpractice which has long plagued the film market.


Film production and distribution companies will suspend distribution of films to six cinemas in Shandong and Shanxi provinces for an unspecified period of time, the harshest punishment this time, according to a statement posted on China Film Distribution and Screening Association website.


Three other cinemas in Hubei, Hainan and Shandong provinces cannot screen new movies for a month. The remaining cinemas have been warned or criticized, and nine are not eligible for government subsidy for one year.


The move comes after the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television issued a circular in January to clamp down on the practice of cinemas manipulating film-viewing figures for financial gain.


For years, cinemas have handwritten tickets or allowed patrons in with no tickets at all, with the cash going straight to the cinema instead of being counted into box office takings.


Other fraudulent behavior includes selling tickets which don't correspond to the one that moviegoers see, or tickets sold as a deal with popcorn, with the box office only being given a small percentage of the takings.


"The most direct influence the practice causes is affecting the box office. To go deeper, it brings down the enthusiasm for investment and creative work in the film market," Kang Haitao, a regional manager for Dadi Cinema Lines in Beijing, told the Global Times.


According to data from the administration, Chinese box-office revenue reached 21.8 billion yuan ($3.6 billion) in 2013, but some industry insiders suggested at least 10 percent of takings could have been lost to illegal activities, said the Xinhua News Agency.


"The practice mainly happens in small cities. Cinemas in first- or second- tier cities would only do this if they wanted to profit from a movie they themselves had invested in," a manager of a Xi'an cinema in Shaanxi Province under Wanda Cinemas, who did not want to reveal his identity, told the Global Times.


Kang noted that the clampdown is far more severe than previously, as in the past the government seldom punishes to such severe degree.


SOURCE: Global Times 


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