China reiterates film rules after 'Avatar' flap

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China on Monday reiterated rules that most of the screen time in the nation's cinemas be given to domestic films, after it cut short the run of US blockbuster "Avatar".

The State Council, or cabinet, also called for steps to boost the Chinese film industry, such as building more digital cinemas and having studios raise funds through bank loans and by issuing shares and bonds.

The statement came after the 2D version of Avatar was pulled ahead of schedule from cinemas on Friday amid charges that the government had shunted it aside to make way for the patriotic Chinese biopic "Confucius".

Avatar, the futuristic adventure that was released in both 2D and 3D versions January 4, has become China's all-time box-office champion, topping 80 million dollars in sales, state media said last week.

The State Council statement said the industry must "earnestly implement relevant rules requiring that screening time of domestic movies must be no less than two-thirds of total screening time in a year".

China currently allows 20 foreign films to be shown in the country's cinemas every year.

It also should step up efforts to "help domestic movies enter the international mainstream film market" as part of its strategy to "increase the nation's cultural soft power", according to the statement.

It said the industry would grow more than 20 percent a year by 2015, without giving a comparative figure.

The United States has complained repeatedly about Chinese limits on the screening of foreign films, and the World Trade Organisation in December upheld a ruling that orders Beijing to free up distribution of US films, music and books.