NEWS
Hollywood tops Chinese film market in 2012, first time in four years

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's 2012 box office was dominated by foreign films for the first time in four years as a deal cemented earlier this year saw more Hollywood film screened on the mainland, squeezing out domestic competition.

China's box office receipts are expected to reach 16.8 billion yuan ($2.7 billion) in 2012 and about 8 billion yuan ($1.28 billion), or slightly less than half the receipts, are from domestic films, the official People's Daily reported on Monday, quoting estimates from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

It is the first time in four years that domestic film receipts totaled less than 50 percent of the market and signals that the February trade agreement to allow more Hollywood movies to be screened in China is having a significant impact on the country's movie industry.

Last year, domestic films made up 54 percent of box office receipts, down slightly from 56 percent in 2010, local media reported. China agreed in February to open its market to more American movies, permitting 14 premium format films such as IMAX or 3D to be exempt from the annual 20 foreign film quota.

Last month, Tian Jin, China's vice minister of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, said the U.S. film industry was reaping massive profits due to the February concession while domestic producers were under pressure.

However, the best-selling film this year is a low-budget, domestically-produced comedy called "Lost in Thailand" about two rival businessmen. The movie drew a bigger audience in China than James Cameron's "Avatar", the People's Daily said.

($1 = 6.2335 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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