Fest Traveler: Busan Intl. Film Festival

As Hong Kong and mainland China’s biz figures pass for the first time through the portals at the Bexco Exhibition & Convention Center, you could be forgiven if you spot a certain swagger in their step.

The Chinese biz is in great shape. It is now the fastest-growing film market in the world, with more than 6,000 screens and better than $1.5 billion in box office revenue last year — an increase of more than 60% last year alone.

In the three months between June and August, B.O. was a boffo $640 million, a rise of 77% on the same period the previous year. China is adding more than 1,400 cinema screens a year.

The Asian perspective remains crucial for Chinese filmmakers, despite the strong growth of the domestic market and the economic slowdown which has hit Japan particularly.

Chinese shingles such as Huayi Bros., Dadi Century Film Distribution, Dingsheng Cultural Industry Investment and Tianjin Film Studio will make the trip to Busan, as will Hong Kong shingles like Distribution Workshop, Edko, Film Asia and Golden Network Asia.

“The Asian Film Market is popular in the Asian business, and we are going there to do some social events. We are aiming at the Korean and Japanese buyers,” says Lana Peng, international sales and distribution topper at Huayi Bros. Media. “We normally focus on sales during the Asia Film Market. It is still the busiest market for meeting with buyers from around the world. Busan is one of the most recognizable international film fests here in China, so in terms of sales and publicity, we love to be a part of the film fest. And recently more and more Chinese productions are work with Korean studios on the computer graphics said and post production. So there is a trend of collaboration between Chinese companies and Korean production houses.”

Indeed, the Busan fest will see the Korean bow of “Wu xia” on Oct. 9, and thesps Tang Wei and Takeshi Kitano will be there.

The B.O. target for 2011, put out by the government’s official “blue book” cultural report on the entertainment industry, is set at $2 billion.

The quota system operated by the government allows roughly 20 foreign movies a year into China on a revenue-sharing basis; however, co-productions do not fall under the quota and Asian shingles regularly co-produce across borders.

Ricky Tse, head of distribution and sales at Media Asia, says he believes the focus at Busan this year would be on individual projects rather than putting stress on themes.

While the Asian regional dimension remains important, China’s attentions have become noticeably more global since last year’s Busan fest.

The boom in the Chinese biz has seriously piqued the interest of many Hollywood shingles in recent weeks. DreamWorks is gearing up to open a Shanghai operation to make films specifically for China’s booming market, while the Asian unit of Thomas Tull’s Legendary, Legendary East, announce plans to raise $220.5 million through the Hong Kong-listed Paul Y Engineering Group (PYE) by issuing shares on the Hong Kong stock market.

Relativity Media inked a strategic partnership with Huaxia Film Distribution Co. and SkyLand (Beijing) Film-Television Culture Development and, separately, is teaming with Saif Partners and IDG China Media to launch the first Chinese-American distribution company, SkyLand Entertainment.

The Chinese media conglomerate DMG has put together a $300 million tentpole fund to bring U.S. movies to China.

This growing global focus means that China will continue to focus on Busan, but it will also translate into even keener interest than usual in the “other” AFM, American Film Market.

FEST TRAVELER: BUSAN INTL. FILM FESTIVAL
Fest maps new future | Regional leader | Hark made Hong Kong a global force | Q&A: Lee Yong-kwan

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