BEIJING - Rising interest in the silver screen in China has encouraged major media companies to embark on a big drive to build more cinemas.
The film industry boom has been fueled by the improved living standards enjoyed by many urban residents, with box office receipts in China expected to hit a record 10 billion yuan ($1.47 billion) this year.
Poly Film Investment Co Ltd, Huayi Brothers Media Corp and Stellar Mega-media have all announced dramatic expansion plans. Poly is planning to build 100 cinemas in China within three years.
James Wang, president of Huayi Brothers, the first publicly traded movie studio in China, said the company would invest 1 billion yuan building a nationwide chain of movie theaters. Qin Hong, chairman of Beijing-based Stellar Mega-media, said he planned to add 100 more screens this year.
The spectacular boom has prompted Poly Film to consider an initial public offering. "We are planning a listing on a mainland stock market in 2011. This will succeed if nothing goes seriously wrong," Liu Debin, the company's general manager, told China Daily.
The sector's growth is actively supported by the government. La Peikang, vice-president of the State Film Bureau, said tremendous efforts had been made to develop the industry since 2003, with reforms and other measures designed to create a better environment for China's film industry.
China had 620 million urbanites by the end of 2009 when the number of people living in cities rose to 46.6 percent of the nation's total population, an increase of 163 million from 2000, according to the 2010 City's Blue Book, issued by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
By 2015, urban residents in China will make up about 52 percent of the total population, with the figure rising to 65 percent by 2030, it forecast.
The amount people spent on culture in urban areas rose about 181 percent from 26 billion yuan in 2001 to 73.6 billion yuan in 2008, according to the 2010 Annual Report on the Development of China's Cultural Industries.
Liu, from Poly Film, said his desire for a public listing made sense because "every aspect" of the business was reaching maturity.
The company believes a successful listing will offer more financing channels and assist its further development, said Liu.
Poly's first IMAX cinema with one 4D hall is scheduled to open in Beijing next month. Its second IMAX cinema will also start operating soon in Panyu, Guangdong province, Liu said.