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Popular Filmart will move to spring slot

Buyers up 40% as HKTDC preps move to March in '05

HONG KONG — The seventh Hong Kong Intl. Film and Television Market, or Filmart, finally unspooled Sept. 24-26 after the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome forced it to cancel its June slot — and it boasted a strong turnout and much praise.

More than 2,200 buyers from 36 countries and regions, more than 40% up on last year, and 240 exhibitors registered.

They attended four symposiums and more than 40 screenings, including the premiere of “Infernal Affairs II: The Prequel” on closing night.

New sections were introduced, including animation, post-production services and licensing. It helped that the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the semi-government organizer of Filmart allowed some exhibitors to invite two buyers, expenses paid.

The HKTDC’s strategy impressed some exhibitors. “This is atypical,” says Anne-Marie Boysen, who handles international sales for Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. “This is our first time here and we thought this was fantastic. Filmart’s support of buyers was instrumental in getting us here.”

The HKTDC is hoping Filmart will grow even bigger with the announcement on the market’s closing day that in 2005, the event would shift to March to run alongside the Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival (HKIFF) and the Hong Kong Film Awards (HKFA).

Over recent years, there has been a push toward grouping all Hong Kong’s film events closer to maximise the number of attendees at each.

From the HKTDC’s point of view, Filmart’s move to March in 2005 is expected to be more convenient for buyers, who can make one trip to Hong Kong instead of two. It also does away with the need to choose between attending a screening event (the film festival) and a trade event (Filmart).

Though not the primary motive, the change is also expected to benefit those traveling on the festival and market circuit, given general shifts in the global festival calendar, such as AFM’s move from February to November.

Reactions to the news was mixed at Filmart, with some saying the change puts the market too close to the Cannes Film Festival. Others saw greater potential for Filmart with the schedule change.

“April in 2005 is a great idea,” says Lions Gate’s Boysen. “AFM is moving to November, so there’s a large gap and buyers would want to meet before the Cannes Film Festival. Filmart should make a bid for the third big festival, after Cannes and AFM. As Asian films become more important in the world marketplace, there’s a lot of interest from Europeans and Americans.”

Director Peter Chan also supports the date change. “It’s good because it’ s early in the year, so people will buy,” he says. “By summer, people are not willing to buy and new products don’t come out until summer or Mifed.”

One of Filmart’s highlights was a nine-member panel on China, Hong Kong and overseas cooperation that attracted a bigger audience than planned. After the signing of a trade agreement between China and Hong Kong in June, people from all aspects of the film industry were eager to find out how the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) could benefit their companies or countries when it takes effect next year. The pact relaxes the imports of Hong Kong-produced Chinese-language films and co-production requirements.

With CEPA, overseas companies are expected to partner up with Hong Kong companies to get a foot into the China market. If so, Hong Kong’s relevance, and perhaps Filmart’s importance — as well as a place to talk with potential partners, understand mainland distribution or to make mainland contacts — may become even greater.

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