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Aussies forecast bright future at prod’n confab

CANBERRA, Australia — A tantalizing vision of the Asia-Pacific Rim teeming with hundreds of new TV channels and fresh sources of film investment and acquisition coin was laid out at the three-day Screen Production Assn. of Australia’s annual conference, which concluded Saturday.

Some 384 delegates (up from 320 last year) attending the confab at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra were told that U.S. webs and Asian broadcasters would offer increasing opportunities for co-productions and license deals.

Japanese money seems to be loosening up. In Singapore,Japan’s Nippon Film Development and Finance is working with Singapore banks in setting up a film acquisition fund initially to be worth $ 13 million.

Nippon Film Development business exec Junko Kusunoki said the company will continue to invest in films like its earlier successes “Howards End” and “The Crying Game” as well as making Asian films. It plans to create a network of sales offices in mainland China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma and Thailand, she said.

And the Koreans are making overtures. Korean conglomerate Samsung was identified as another new player intent on pre-buying or co-producing major films.

Sunmin Park, L.A.-based rep for Korean buyers including Samsung, said Koreans were looking to take equity positions in films because prices for Korean rights had rocketed to more than $ 3 million. Koreans were asked to pay higher fees than Japan although Japan has double Korea’s population.

With at least seven satellites to launch in the next two years, the number of channels beaming into Asia could total 900, according to Russell Cawthorne, VP, international marketing, of Hong Kong-based producer/distrib/exhib Golden Harvest. “The hot issue is who will be the hot birds and how (programmers) get together,” Cawthorne said, noting that Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV has an exclusive option on 36 transponders on Asiasat II, due to fly in December or January.

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