Thailand’s military government this week approved plans to create financial incentives that are intended to help attract foreign films to shoot in the country.
At the same time the government denied that a release certificate had been turned down to Pierce Brosnan and Owen Wilson-starring film “No Escape” (previously “The Coup”). The John Erick Dowdle-directed film, which shot in Thailand, could have threatened the sensitivities of the current regime. It depicts the violent events of a government overthrow in Southeast Asia.
The cabinet gave approval in principle to a scheme under which a cash rebate would be paid at the rate of 15% of every 30 million baht ($860,000) spent in the country. Additional rebates could also be earned, worth 10% of spend, if the movie promoted a positive image of Thailand, and a further 5% if it also employed Thai performers.
The scheme would be capped at $2.86 million per year, though government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd suggested that the actual figure should be reviewed each year.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports said that it believed the incentive would generate additional revenues of $43million to $57 million to the country.
Sources close to the Thailand Film Office, however, told Variety that putting the scheme into practice is likely to take several months and that the percentage figures for rebates have not yet been finalized.
The initiative may be a response to a decline in film industry revenues last year, as well as a lobbying process that has gone on for several years from parts of the industry.
Thailand saw revenues from foreign films dip from $62 million in 2013 to $55.1 million in 2014. The data span commercials, shorts and corporate videos as well as feature movies. About 67 features shot some or all of their production in Thailand in 2013, a figure that dropped to 48 last year.
In the first five months of 2015 some 37 features have used Thailand as a location and total spend from (all kinds of) foreign films rose to $45.1 million.
Producers have lobbied successive Thai governments to come up with financial incentives schemes. While the country has the best film industry infrastructure in Southeast Asia and acts as a hub for the region, Thai crews are increasingly working on international films attracted to neighboring Malaysia, which has a newly built film studio in Iskandar on the border with Singapore, and a 30% rebate scheme. Arclight Films’ missing plane thriller “Lost in the Pacific” recently shot at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios, as did Netflix TV series “Marco Polo.”
The Thailand Film Office recently reported that part of Dimitri Logothetis’ “Kickboxer” reboot, which stars Dave Bautista, Jean Claude van Damme and Thai actress Sarah Malakul Lane, shoots in Thailand. Other international feature films expected to shoot in Thailand this year include Stephen Gaghan’s “Gold” for Black Bear Pictures, and Marc Forster’s “All I See Is You” for SC Intl.
“No Escape” is produced by Bold Films, distributed in North America by the Weinstein Co. and sold in international territories by Sierra/Affinity. Local reports say that the filmmakers appear to have taken steps to ensure that no specific SE Asian country is identified in the film. And that images of riot police show upside-down Cambodian-language script, not Thai. It will be released in Thai theaters on Sept. 10 through indie distributor Handmade.
Though it is unclear whether the proposed capped scheme would have attracted the biggest Hollywood shoots, Tourism and Sports minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul appears to believe so.
“We are talking about famous blockbuster movies with high budgets such as ‘Star Wars’, for which, at one point, Thailand was considered as a location, but [the producers] opted to use the United Kingdom instead because it offered incentives and Thailand did not,” she told local media after Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.