Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mainland Cinema Ticket Prices to be Capped?

The futuristic surrounds of Beijing's BC MOMA cinema.
Anyone who lives in mainland China will be familiar with the high cost of cinema tickets, which are particularly expensive relative to wages. Ticket prices of RMB 60-80 (that’s US$9.50-12.70, or AU$9.20-12.30) are not uncommon in Beijing. Given that the average wage is a fraction of what people earn in the West, that makes for an expensive night out. There may be some relief in sight for Chinese film fans, with the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) announcing plans to cap ticket prices, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

Tong Gang, head of SARFT’s Film Bureau was reported as saying on Monday that “SARFT will issue a recommended pricing guideline for cinemas in 2012, set a maximum price and urge cinemas to increase half-price ticket deals.”

High prices haven’t held back the crowds in China’s major cities. According to The Guardian, China “now boasts the third-largest annual box office returns in the world.” 2011 saw Chinese cinemas pull in around RMB 12 billion (close to US$ 2 billion).

In terms of China’s overall population, however, access to cinemas is quite restricted. According to the LA Times last year, the country currently has around 6,200 screens, compared to North America’s 40,000 servicing a population about one-quarter of the size of China’s. These figures reflect the huge disparities in China between major cities and the rest of the country, and the vast disparities of wealth across Chinese society. While there's a lot of people packing out cinemas in China, there are much larger numbers who simply can't afford a ticket.

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