Opportunity knocks in China, India

Asia’s importance for Hollywood studios will keep growing at a powerful rate, reckons Fox Filmed Entertainment chair Jim Gianopulos, but markets like China and India need to keep building infrastructure and working on piracy to truly thrive.

The two countries have all the necessary experience, capable crews and very talented filmmakers, Gianopulos said in an interview with Variety at ScreenSingapore, which has lured some big names from around the region and from Hollywood to the luxury Sentosa resort.

“What still needs to develop: first, the infrastructure, and most importantly, the protection of intellectual property, so that over time the value of libraries can be built and sustained. That’s the ecosystem that’s needed — to recycle investment for new creative enterprises; that’s the big challenge,” he says.

Gianopulos believes that there is a growing awareness of the possibilities that Asia has to offer, plus an understanding of how the market functions.

Fox scored regional hits with the Mandarin-language “Hot Summer Days,” co-helmed by Wing Shya and Tony Chan, which took in $22 million, and “My Name Is Khan,” which earned more overseas than in India.

“There is an awareness of these massive countries (and) their fantastic level of growth and economic activity and innovation. There isn’t anyone who doesn’t understand the potential of China,” he said.

China’s B.O. is growing strongly, amounting to $1.5 billion last year, with 6,200 screens at year-end, but that number is building exponentially.

“I don’t pretend to know the process of China’s approach to opening the market and expanding the access of foreign films,” Gianopulos added. “I don’t think anyone really knows that. I do know there is a growing awareness of the importance of it, of making it easier for companies to support the development of the local industry and to make it easier to make films there.”

The Fox topper added that “the pace of our involvement is a function of the degree of opportunity,” noting that there are enough 3D theaters in China to have generated $200 million from “Avatar.”

“Those films don’t come around every day, but certainly that says this a market that can be extraordinary and very lucrative,” he said.

Piracy has made making money in China and elsewhere in Asia difficult, but Gianopulos was optimistic that things would change because legitimizing the entertainment biz means a major boost for economies: Studios pay taxes, which pirates don’t, he noted.

“As local entrepreneurs start to make investments both in theaters and online video enterprises and particularly in film production, they won’t be waiting for us, it will come from inside,” he said.

“Those engaged in illegal traffic don’t pay taxes, don’t observe censorship or other restrictions, so it’s not a simply a matter of doing this for the studios.”

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