Attendees offers ways to grow Asian film industry

SHANGHAI — As the Shanghai Film Festival drew to a close on Sunday, China’s biz chiefs hailed the sizzling box office while warning that long-term thinking is needed if Chinese cinema is to grow into a truly international player.

“It’s just like eating instant noodles, put the hot water in and eat,” Hong Kong helmer John Woo, who chaired the jury at the fest, told a forum.

The nine-day fest, which is growing in importance, featured more than 300 stars and celebrities from home and abroad, including thesp Adrien Brody and multihyphenate Luc Besson, part of efforts to make it more international.

Fest featured a lot of discussion about what genres Asian, especially Chineese, filmmakers should explore.

The market is dominated by chopsocky costume epics while many arthouse pics are denied permission to screen in China and end up on the arthouse circuit in Europe and the U.S.

“I think the film market is developing well, and lots of films are being made, but the quality is not that excellent,” said Woo, who compared the situation to that of Hong Kong 20 years ago, when mass-market films dominated and there was no sense of a broader plan.

“Avatar” was probably the most oft-cited name at the fest. This is not only because of the 3D movie’s success in China — it made $190 million — but also because there’s a feeling that China blew it by not producing a 3D movie.

“China has many talented young people who are eager to learn and know about new tech. But they don’t have the opportunity to practice. Nobody really cares about them,” Woo said. “Investors should have a longterm eye, give them some support of tech, confidence and capital.”

Mid-week, Chinese helmer Feng Xiaogang’s criticism of the tough business practices of Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Co. showed that there is still a gulf between the two film cultures, but it also reflects a growing confidence in the Chinese market.

Yu Dong, prexy of the Polybona distrib, expects the coming decade to be a golden one for the Chinese film business, and forecast that the B.O. would rise to around 30 billion yuan ($4.4 billion) in the next five years, while the number of screens would double from 5,000 to 10,000 in that time.

Piracy remains a major problem.

“We have one revenue line from China — theatrical,” said Jason Reed, general manager of international production at Disney, adding that homevideo supplied 40% of revenues in other markets.

But things are changing.

Shingles are quicker to take legal action against TV companies that broadcast their product illegally. Filmmakers at the fest said that they were getting more income from Internet rights in China than they previously had.

“The TV market is also waiting to be explored,” said Ricky Tse, head of distribution at Media Asia.

Director Peng Ho-cheung said there was no shortage of money in China these days. “But what we do lack is producers who have ideas and far-sighted vision,” he said.

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