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China to end online movie ticket subsidies

Chinese regulators have called time on the subsidising of online movie-ticket sales.

Film studios and distributors have been using discounts as a reliable means of distorting opening-weekend box-office numbers in recent years.

Last week, authorities met with executives from largest cinema chains, such as China Film Group, owned by Dalian Wanda Group, to brief them on planned policy changes, including the prohibition of film ticket subsidies, according to a report from business news service Caixin.

Subsidisation has helped to boost sales and create a buzz around particular releases, while also pleasing investors. The practice began some years ago when the first online ticket vendors used discounts as a way of luring new customers but has since become a marketing tool for the filmmakers themselves.

The subsidies – tickets can be bought for little more than £1 in some cases – have created a volatile cinema market in China, with box office growth surging by 47 per cent in 2015, but just four per cent a year later.

According to Caixin, other changes discussed include a fixed cap on the service charges levied by ticketing services to just two yuan (about 30p) per admission.

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