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China dashes Hollywood's hopes for greater access in 2014

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China will maintain its strict quota for imported Hollywood movies this year, rejecting reports it had planned to increase access for U.S. films to the world's second-largest cinema market, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

The Hollywood Reporter cited a source last week saying the country's film bureau was mulling increasing Hollywood's quota in China to 44 from the current 34 films it allows each year.

U.S. studios have been taking steps to appeal to the fast-growing Chinese box office, which hit 21.8 billion yuan ($3.60 billion) last year. Production companies like Viacom Inc's Paramount Picture and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc have hired Chinese actors and set up co-productions with Chinese firms to make inroads in the mainland market.

But China's often draconian film regulators hold a tight grip over the market, controlling the inflow of foreign films in order to protect the box office share of domestic ventures.

An unidentified official from China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television told Xinhua the 2014 quota would hold in-line with an agreement signed in 2012, when China increased the quota from 20 films to the current level.

Hollywood has traditionally dominated China's box office, but Chinese films overtook their U.S. rivals in 2013 taking over 58 percent of the box office, according to Xinhua.

Hollywood-made films can sometimes find loopholes to get into the Chinese market, including creating joint-productions with Chinese partners to skirt the ban or gaining entry as a non-U.S. production.

($1 = 6.0593 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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