British film-makers will gain enhanced access to the world's fastest-growing cinema audience, thanks to a landmark co-production film treaty agreed between the UK and China.
The treaty, negotiated by the British Film Institute, will allow Sino-British co-productions to sidestep China's quota system, which limits cinemas to showing no more than 34 non-domestic titles a year.
It will also allow qualifying co-productions to access sources of finance from the two national governments, such as the UK's Film Tax Relief and the BFI Film Fund.
Welcoming the agreement, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “This is a significant step forward for the British film industry, opening the door to a market that is building seven cinema screens a day.
“People have started calling it Chollywood, but really it's Chinewood - British films linking up with Chinese partners to access the second highest box office audience in the world.”
China's box office audience is the second largest in the world, worth £1.65 billion and forecast to grow to £3.5 billion by 2017.
It is forecast that China will replace North America as the world's biggest cinema market overall within the next 10 years. China's own film production is also growing fast, from 558 titles in 2011 to 745 last year.
The UK has already signed treaties with a number of countries, resulting in productions including such as Rush (UK/Germany), Dredd 3D (UK/South Africa) and Le Weekend (UK/France).
Ivan Dunleavy, chief executive of Pinewood, said: “This agreement on co-production is a significant step forward. It will provide access for British and Chinese film-makers to produce films for the global audience.”
UK film production volume is worth on average of more than £1 billion a year and exports of UK films total £1.7 billion annually - an increase of 121% since 1995.
China is a priority market because of evidence that it offers the greatest opportunities for growth.
BFI chief executive Amanda Nevill said: “China is a really important and dynamic growth opportunity for film. The speed of growth in terms of cinema rollout alone is quite staggering and offers huge opportunities to those working in film in China and the UK.
“And this treaty, the result of nearly a decade of work, will open up this new valuable market. We want to put real energy behind this landmark treaty and will be working in close partnership with the Chinese film authorities and all major creative players to put on the biggest ever exchange programme celebrating Chinese and UK film next year.”
Culture Secretary Maria Miller, whose Department for Culture, Media and Sport supported the BFI in negotiations, along with UK Trade and Industry, said: “The treaty is a significant landmark as we continue to strengthen ties between the UK and China.
“I am delighted to be opening up a new world of shared possibilities for our two nation's film industries. This will not only strengthen the UK's economic ties with China but also help lead to a deeper cultural understanding.
“I look forward to seeing the fruits of this treaty, as well as the benefits that closer collaboration between our two nations can bring.”