But Fox exec urged region to do more to fight piracy

SINGAPORE – Asia is set to become the most important market in the world of entertainment, but more needs to be done to combat piracy, Fox Intl. Prods topper Sanford Panitch said today at his keynote speech at ScreenSingapore, Asia’s largest film confab.

“As much as screen count per capita in Asia has increased, it still has a long way to go before it catches up with more mature markets.

“When Asia realizes its full potential, it will ultimately overtake Europe and North America to become the largest theatrical region in the world,” Panitch told auds.

“It’s not just English-language films that are driving growth. While Hollywood blockbusters will continue to do well, audiences are aggressively seeking out local content,” he said.

Bizzers from all over the region were gathered in the Marina Bay Sands Convention Center Singapore for the four-day event, which also includes the Asian Television Forum.

India and China make up nearly 40% of the world’s population and represent a new wave of purchasing power. If China continues its growth, this could be a $5 billion local film industry, said Panitch, while India was also expanding hugely, especially in the 3D market.

FIP has developed, financed or produced 40 local-language films in 11 countries in Asia, Latin America and Russia, he said.

It had been a challenge to convince Hollywood execs that there was a reason to make movies with lower profit margins in smaller markets, but there was payback.

Movies such as “You are the Apple of My Eye” from helmer-scribe Giddens (real name Ko Ching-teng) made $36 million in Greater China, he said.

Over 90% of revenues come from theatrical in China, he said, and there was much scope for boosting the home entertainment market in Asia, which still lags the U.S. market.

“The potential is clear,” Panitch said. “We must dream of making a more robust and valuable ancillary industry in Asia.”

For this to become a reality the topper said it would require high-quality local content, technology to deliver it in a variety of ways and a more effective fight against piracy.

The event’s first day wrapped with the world preem of director Wong Jing’s “The Last Tycoon,” starring Chow Yun-Fat, from China’s Bona Film Group.

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