Chinese film regulators have suspended a film distributor for inflating ticket sales for the movie Ip Man 3.
Dayinmu Film Distribution, also known as Beijing Max Screen, admitted to having bought 56 million yuan (US$8.7 million) worth of tickets to the Chinese martial arts movie that opened in China early this month.
State news agency Xinhua first ran the story which was picked up by the Wall Street Journal.
Conspirators fabricated more than 7,600 screenings of the film that they claimed generated 32 million yuan in ticket sales, Xinhua said, citing a statement from China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.
The regulator said it had ordered Dayinmu to suspend distribution for a month and had given formal warnings to three electronic ticket-selling groups and 73 movie theaters, Xinhua reported.
Chinese regulators are investigating whether the country’s film companies back “ghost screenings,” buying tickets in bulk to boost box-office numbers and create buzz.
Film Regulators launched an investigation of ticket sales for the film, which stars Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen and former boxer Mike Tyson, after it pulled in 470 million yuan, or US$72 million, over its opening weekend.
Soon after, local Chinese media began alleging abnormal screening and ticketing practices related to Ip Man 3.
Local media posted screenshots of film-ticketing sites purporting to show some theaters had sold-out screenings of the film every 10 minutes after midnight in the same theater.
They also claimed tickets had sold for as much as US$31 a seat, several times the price of tickets at other showtimes, which helped drive up the total box office.
The regulator’s move to strip the company of its license sends a broader signal to China’s film industry, condemning a practice of buying tickets in bulk to create buzz around their films.
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