Hong Kong Mulling Cinema Building Obligations

Hong Kong’s government says it is “actively considering” the introduction of building regulations that might require real estate developers open cinemas in the territory.

The possible move was unveiled on Wednesday as part of the annual policy address given by CY Leung, Chief Executive of the Special Administrative Region.

“The government is actively considering the option of requiring developers to include cinemas in their development projects as appropriate in the terms and conditions of the land lease,” Leung said.

“We will also work to attract overseas production crews to use Hong Kong as a base for location filming, production and post-production activities,” he said without giving any details.

The proposed building regulation is a measure that has been lobbied for over several years by Hong Kong’s exhibition sector. Cinema operators argue that record breaking rentals at Hong Kong’s shopping malls are pricing them out of business, forcing them to close or downsize. They have argued that operating under such difficult conditions means that cinemas focus only on the most commercial movies and are less able to play local Hong Kong-made films.

New building regulations are likely to be opposed by the property conglomerates that are among the most powerful forces and the biggest tax payers in Hong Kong.

The measure follows a year in which the territory’s cinemas enjoyed a 20% increase in gross box office, to reach $212 million. The number of local films released increased in 2015 increased, but the market share for Hong Kong movies slipped from 22% to 19%.

The policy, if enacted, would represent something of a return to colonial era policies. When the British colonial government was building new towns in Kowloon and the New Territories it operated policies that specified the minimum number of cinema screens that should be built per head of population.

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