Long wait over for China's 'Harry Potter' fans

BEIJING - China's legion Harry Potter fans will at last get to see the final chapter of the film series on Thursday, when a 90-minute epic about the history of the Communist Party gives way to the boy wizard.

The mainland is by far the world's fastest growing film market, with box office takings up 64 per cent last year, as the country's burgeoning consumer class takes to the movies.

However, its movie industry is protected by a system that only allows around 20 foreign films to be screened a year, allowing homegrown directors to create Hollywood-style blockbusters without the threat of major competition.

Since late June, theatre operators have been forced to screen "The Beginning of the Great Revival" - a cinematic celebration of the Communist Party that state-run studio the China Film Group predicted would gross 800 million yuan (S$149.76 million).

The Chinese release of the long-awaited movie comes weeks after it hit US screens - and is even later than its Indonesia opening, where it was put off for three weeks due to a tax row between US studios and Jakarta.

The long delay has seen Potter fans go online in droves to vent their anger.

Some have voiced suspicion it was a deliberate move to boost ticket sales for "The Beginning of the Great Revival", which had disappointing takings.

Even before the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2," which has already booked $1 billion in ticket sales around the world for Warner Bros, several Hollywood hits had out-grossed the Chinese epic.

After just over a week on screens, Hollywood action sequel "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," took 361.9 million yuan on 6,500 screens.

That was roughly the same as the "The Beginning of the Great Revival" made on 7,800 screens over six weeks.

The latest Harry Potter film this week became only the ninth movie in history to gross $1 billion.

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