China's Ip Man 3 distributor sanctioned
A Chinese film distributor has had its licence suspended after inflating its box office numbers for movie Ip Man 3.
Starring Donnie Yen and former boxer Mike Tyson, the martial arts film opened in China on 4 March.
Suspicions were raised when it took more than 500m yuan (£53.5m) in just four days.
Distributor Beijing Max Screen admitted to buying 56m yuan's (£5.9m) worth of tickets, according to Chinese state media agency, Xinhua.
It also "fabricated more than 7,600 screenings of the film they claimed generated 32m yuan (£3.4m) in ticket sales", Xinhua said.
Xinhua alleged Beijing Max Screen had bought discount tickets in bulk from various cinema chains, who then scheduled "ghost screenings" after midnight at expensive rates.
'Fully accepted' punishment
According to the Hollywood Reporter, several of China's top mobile ticketing apps - which is how more than 70% of Chinese movie tickets are now purchased - showed sold-out Ip Man 3 screenings running every 10 minutes until 03:00 at some cinemas, which would be impossible.
The Chinese film bureau has now ordered Beijing Max Screen to suspend distribution for a month while it "rectifies all malpractices" and gave formal warnings to three electronic ticket-selling groups involved in the fraud, as well as 73 cinemas.
According to Xinhua, the company said in a statement it had "studied and fully accepted" the punishment.
The distributor could not be immediately reached for comment.
China's film ticket sales overtook North America's in February by almost $250m (£173m), according to Chinese regulators.
However, issues such as counterfeiting and ghost screenings have plagued fast-growing China's film industry.
Aside from inflating or distorting their numbers, some distributors allegedly buy tickets in bulk and resell them to online discounters as a marketing strategy.