By LOUISE WATT
BEIJING (AP) – China’s film authorities have suspended the license of a distributor that inflated box office figures for Hong Kong martial arts movie “Ip Man 3,” according to state media.
The third installment of the franchise starring Donnie Yen opened in mainland China on March 4 and soon attracted allegations of fraud after it reportedly earned more than 500 million yuan ($77 million) in just four days.
The movie’s distributor, Dayinmu, which is also known as Beijing Max Screen, admitted to having bought 56 million yuan’s ($9 million) worth of tickets, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
“The conspirators fabricated more than 7,600 screenings of the film that they claimed generated 32 million yuan ($5 million) in ticket sales,” Xinhua added. It cited China’s film bureau under the broadcasting regulator.
“These kinds of issues could be considered inevitable in a young industry, but box office fraud has become so serious that it is already harming Chinese cinema,” Zhang Hongsen, head of the film bureau, was quoted as saying.
The bureau ordered the company to suspend distribution for a month while it “rectifies all malpractices” and gave formal warnings to three electronic ticket-selling groups involved in the fraud, as well as 73 cinemas, Xinhua said.
Chinese cinemas and distributors have been accused of faking ticket sales in the past, for example by buying up tickets or counting some of the earnings of one film as those of another. While a distributor will have to fork out money to buy thousands of cinema tickets, the bulk-buying may boost the movie’s profile enough to become a talking-point and attract a bigger audience.
China’s film market has grown fast in recent years to become the world’s second largest, after the United States.