Vigital, GMM, other companies expanding into prod'n

BANGKOK — Fueled by local B.O. successes and a red-hot pan-Asian market, the Thai film biz is ramping up.

Local companies are expanding into production, as Thailand’s major film-to-video licensee CVD, with Hong Kong-based Film Business Intl. and Vigital Co., has bowed Vigital Films, while multimedia concern GMM Grammy launched GMM Pictures with Thai creative company Hub Ho Hin Bangkok.

That pact includes a two-pic deal with director Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, who will helm his second film, “Bangkok Spooky House,” for the shingle. His first pic, “Iron Ladies,” won audiences across Asia and grossed $2.3 million baht ($52,000) at the Thai box office. “Ladies” became the first Thai film to play commercially Stateside when Strand Releasing gave it a limited release in early 2001.

GMM Pictures will roll out at least five Thai films in 2002 while releasing at least one Hollywood pic, Summit Entertainment’s Britney Spears vehicle “Crossroads.”

“Quite simply, we are looking to become the leading Asian music and film entertainment company,” says Apirak Kosayodhin, CEO of GMM Grammy.

Another production house honing in on the local market is RS Promotion 1992 Co. A major family-owned music entertainment company, RS released its first film, “Bangkok Haunted,” under its Avant label on Dec. 19, and plans to put out at least five films in 2002.

Leading the pack is Mongkol Cinema, with 10 pics in production and five skedded for release in the New Year.

Growing in strength as the pan-Asian film movement sprints ahead is Cinemasia, home to the country’s most prolific director, Nonzee Nimbutur. Company has pacted with several other Asian production entities, and has backed such pics as the high-profile Thai-set “Jan Dara,” horror feature “Three” and “Monrak Transistor,” helmed by acclaimed director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang.

All told, 27 Thai films are slated for 2002, vs. 11 in 2001. Ironically, “This is a problem for Thai filmmakers, as not enough prime slots are available for release,” says Phala Bhutpetch, RS Promotion’s senior vice president of development.

Next year, distribs will have to fight for slots during the four prime release periods: Chinese New Year in February, the end of school in May and beginning in October and Western New Year.

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