China's film market watchdog has suspended the distribution license of a distributor that committed fraud to jack up the box office figures for martial arts film "Ip Man 3."
Filmgoers and industry observers have been questioning the authenticity of the film's box office data after it reportedly raked in more than 500 million yuan in just four days after its premiere.
Beijing Max Screen, the film's distributor, admitted to having bought 56 million yuan's worth of the tickets itself, and the conspirators fabricated more than 7,600 screenings of the film that they claimed generated 32 million yuan in ticket sales, said the film bureau under the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television in a statement released late on Friday.
The bureau said it had ordered Beijing Max Screen to suspend distribution for a month ,and that it had given formal warnings to three electronic ticket-selling groups involved in the fraud.
Seventy-three cinemas were also given warnings. They will be named and shamed on the website of the China Association of Film Distributors and Cinemas.
"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," said Zhang Hongsen, head of the film bureau.
While most of these tricks are pulled to hype a film so as to attract greater sales, cinemas also attempt to avoid sharing box office earnings with filmmakers and other parties.
"A successful screening market is the foundation for our film industry. In China, box office is crucial to the income of film producers," Zhang said, vowing measures to halt such misconduct.
"Filmmaking and screening are two wings of one bird and they have to rely on each other. Only a regulated and healthy market can give birth to quality films." Zhang said.