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Pacific rim distrib’n

Indie films target marketing, promotions to local moviegoer

SYDNEY — In Hong Kong, the U.S. majors dominate B.O. and screen time.

In the first six months of this year, Hollywood films earned an estimated 70% of ticket receipts generated by all non-Chinese films, according to Rigo Jesu, managing director of Intercontinental Film Distributors.

“The independents’ only chance is their (superior) marketing,” says Jesu. “By knowing what the local moviegoer wants, they can target their promotion and advertising better than the majors can.”

Jesu’s gloomy prognosis: “Unless the independent market begins to offer titles that can compete in production and story and casting with the majors, the Hong Kong independent distributor may become an endangered species.”

Although he plans to attend the London Screenings and Mifed gatherings, Jesu has modest expectations.

“This year, probably more because of the ripple effect of the strike-that-wasn’t rather than anything else, there appear to be few projects of true interest in the independent market,” he says. “I hope I find I am wrong.”

Australia’s Hoyts Distribution, one of the few new kids on the block, is sending three reps to the fall markets. An offshoot of the exhib giant, Hoyts Distribution aims to start releasing product — a mix of international pickups and Aussie films — early next year.

“We’re looking for mainstream commercial films,” says the banner’s managing director, Robert Slaviero, who was recruited by Hoyts CEO Paul Johnson after stepping down as head of Fox’s Oz distrib arm.

Hoyts is counting on its clout as a major exhib plus synergies with other branches of Kerry Packer’s empire including the Nine Network, ACP magazines and the NineMSN portal to enable it to compete for product with Roadshow Film Distributors.

After joining Oct. 1, Slaviero’s first priority was putting in place booking and accounting systems, while Johnson and acquisition exec Richard Sheffield continued to parlay deals with suppliers. Slaviero says Australian pay TV and homevideo arrangements for Hoyts’ releases will be firmed up soon.

Roadshow Films Distribution raised industry eyebrows recently when it didn’t buy a package of titles including “The Others” and “Scary Movie 2” from Miramax, one of its long-standing suppliers (Miramax elected to funnel those films via stable mate BVI).

RFD chairman Ian Sands says, “We were keen to do a deal (with Miramax) but the price wasn’t right. Our appetite is as big as ever, but we have to be more prudent while the Australian dollar is very low and release costs keep going up.”

South Korea is one market where national films are giving Hollywood pics a run for their money.

“Mifed and London are less important than Cannes but more important than AFM for the sale of Korean films, because these events are held in Europe where Asian films are more popular than in the U.S.,” explains Seungbum Kim, Tube president-CEO of Tube, one of the Korean financiers-sales agent that will fly the flag at Mifed.

Tube is readying two actioners, three dramas and one horror pic.

“The content is not influenced by the World Trade Center terror,” Kim adds.

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