Kurt Rieder’s receipt of the distributor of the year award could just as easily be handed to him by Asia’s regional airlines. Rieder is a ferociously busy traveler and has been particularly busy this year reshaping United Intl. Pictures in Asia.
Indeed, UIP’s take in Asia so far in 2006 is $290.4 million. The parent studios Universal and Paramount decided to break up UIP in much of the rest of the world, but in Asia the org is being kept together at least through 2008. However, it needed the localization skills that Rieder brought from his pre-2003 experience at Golden Village, Thailand’s EGV and Warner Bros. Singapore. In the past year, Rieder has found new subcontractors for UIP in Pakistan and Hong Kong and a revenue-share licensee partner in Vietnam.
Rieder argues local distribution is becoming more sophisticated throughout the region. “Fewer uncommercial films are being released for the sake of pleasing talent; marketing campaigns are becoming both more targeted to specific audience segments — via new media such as cell phones and the Internet. And they are more customized as local offices get more say in how a film’s promoted in their country,” he says.
Where Hollywood fits in is also changing. “Asia no longer needs Hollywood’s filmmaking know-how or money. What Hollywood can offer Asia is access to stars, worldwide distribution networks and risk-sharing on very large budgets.”
Rieder likes to think of himself as a team player. “I’m informed by past experience — both as a distributor and ex-exhibitor. On country-specific matters, I rely heavily on the advice of our managers and distributors in the field. The view from the ground means a lot to me, and UIP fosters a culture of honesty, which I love. I always prefer hearing bad news early and straight up — it allows us time to rethink strategies or lobby the studios for changes to campaigns or distribution plans.”