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'Ice Age: Continental Drift' and 'The Lorax' battle for Chinese viewers

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Figures released this week show that American films dominated the Chinese box office in the first half of the year. Although Chinese officials are proud of their film market’s rapid ascension — it now trails only the U.S. in ticket sales — the lack of Chinese blockbusters has been a sensitive subject for a country that wants to increase its “soft power.”

Forcing the American films to compete head to head could curtail their grosses and help boost homegrown movies’ share of the Chinese box office.

Several U.S. executives noted that it’s unusual for China to open two movies targeting the same audience on the same date, particularly two 3-D pictures in a country where the technology is hugely popular. (In the U.S., studios try to avoid such face-offs by scheduling release dates early and changing them when competition crops up, but they have no control over how China Film schedules and markets their movies.)

Jiang dismissed such speculation, noting that the recently released Chinese movies “Caught in the Web” and “Painted Skin: The Resurrection” also opened the same week.

“China’s film market is very competitive. It’s very common to see many movies to go head to head against each other,” Jiang said. “Since blockbuster Chinese movies like those two can be released the same (week) in China, I don’t understand why two American movies can’t go head to head against each other.”

He added that in a month in which seven or eight movies are typically released every week, “it’s really hard for a movie to enjoy a completely competition-free release.” Jiang said foreign movies also need to receive approval from Chinese censors, which can complicate release schedules.

China generated more than $2 billion in box office in 2011 and is on track to top $3 billion this year.

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