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China to select 5,000 cinemas to show propaganda films

China plans to select 5,000 movie theaters across the country to screen propaganda films and will look to boost their box office with group sales, discounted tickets and other financial backing.

The number of theaters accounts for roughly 10 percent of China's total, with quotas issued for each major city, province and autonomous region.

A notice from the nation's film regulator said the policy is intended to promote specific movies at special times to create a "people's theater front," a throwback to language used during the era of Mao Zedong.

In keeping with the ruling Communist Party's latest initiatives, the policy intends to "guide thought and educate the people," said the statement, which was stamped Jan. 30. Copies of it were posted Tuesday to Chinese websites that cover the entertainment industry.

China, the world's second-biggest film market, saw movie ticket sales rise 13.5 percent last year to over $8.6 billion. Chinese-made movies accounted for 54 percent of ticket sales, with baldly nationalistic action thriller Wolf Warrior 2 topping the box office.

The ruling Communist Party is anxious to promote more productions with patriotic themes and exercises broad control over scripts and shooting permits.

It also routinely manipulates ticket sales and movie release dates, including limiting the number of foreign films that can be shown and banning them entirely for certain periods.

That helps pump up sales for domestic productions, although patriotic themes don't always win out. Recent successes have included films glorifying materialism and complex interpersonal relationships, such as the Tiny Times series.

As part of party leader and President Xi Jinping's ideological drive, the party has also sought to crack down on internet content deemed frivolous or immoral.

That includes online games such as the Japanese hit Travel Frog, although the denouncements appear to have done little to dampen public enthusiasm for them, and the authorities are eager to keep the internet open as a conduit for business.


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