Those behind CineAsia are hoping the event will have a major impact on Asia’s mushrooming cinema industry.
“Asia is tremendously under-screened. We can contribute significantly to improving that situation,” says Jimmy Sunshine, co-director of CineAsia.
“We’ve done ShowEast for ten years, and four years ago, we started Cinema Expo in Brussels, extending the idea to Europe. Now, with our third show, in Asia, we are taking the best of ShowEast and Cinema Expo, which we are shifting to Amsterdam this year, and adapting it with a flair to cater to the Asia Pacific region,” explains Sunshine. “There is a definite and urgent need to develop an infrastructure in the Asian-Pacific theater market.”
The official corporate sponsor of CineAsia is Coca-Cola, but individual companies like UIP, Warner Bros., Columbia TriStar and others will act as hosts for given events during the market. Top execs from Buena Vista and Fox will also be on hand. (By contrast, Buena Vista and Paramount surprisingly skipped MIP Asia, the first Asian TV market, last year.)
Sunshine has more than 500 people registered for Singapore, but estimates the total could go as high as 900 before the show gets underway. “Just about everybody will be there,” he says, noting that Cineplex Odeon, for instance, will make CineAsia its first exhibition market ever.
Sunshine emphasizes that, apart from suppliers, CineAsia will also offer services and manufactured goods from a wide range of companies, from Dolby and Italy’s Cinemecanica to Coca-Cola, Cadbury, M&M/Mars and others. “You have to remember that this is put on especially for people who own and operate theaters,” he says. “Of course, we will stage the regional premiers of a number of top films… but perhaps more important, CineAsia will give the local exhibitor from Indonesia, Malaysia or India a chance not only to see a Korean projector, but also the machines and the seating that are made in the U.S., Spain and Italy.”
Obviously, exhibition interests and the expansion of theater construction in the region will be of prime interest. “A lot of the people who come from the U.S. and from Europe will be there with a view to finding somebody with whom to partner in establishing theaters, “Sunshine explains. “For the small, independent exhibitor, CineAsia will be simply spectacular. I can see, for the first time, actual deals right on the floor, along with strategic partnerships and relationships.”
Sunshine counts off the instances where foreign exhibitors are already into international exhibition partnerships, such as the Golden Village company, a combination of Hong Kong’s Raymond Chow and Village Roadshow of Australia.
They have built multiplexes in Singapore, have started theater projects in Malaysia and have announced ventures in India and Italy.
The United Artists houses in teeming Hong Kong are part of a joint venture, and UA also signed recent deals in Malaysia.
There are even talks going on with the Chinese, including theater plans for Shanghai, though Sunshine doesn’t see China looming as large at CineAsia as it did during the active MIP Asia television market in Hong Kong. India, with its rapidly growing and increasingly affluent middle class, is a much more tempting target, he believes.
To document the need for more houses, Sunshine cites the example of Japan, which, with a population half that of the U.S., has only 2,000 movie theaters. The U.S. today clocks close to 260 million people and has 25,000 screens. Yet, Japan is the world’s second-leading film-grossing country after the U.S.
“That alone proves the tremendous need for new, innovative, highly modernized situations,” Sunshine argues.
He says he has been advised by friends to consider talking to MIDEM about the possibility of merging CineAsia with MIP Asia, or some other market, but so far, he hasn’t broached the subject to MIDEM, the MIP Asia parent.
Sunshine has already signed contracts for CineAsia in Singapore for the next three years. After that, the show might move to Hong Kong, “just to keep it fresh,” if Chinese control of that city doesn’t change things.
Why Singapore for the inaugural event? “We scouted Hong Kong,” says Sunshine, “but it’s very expensive, and Singapore is also geographically more convenient for a lot of the Asians and Australians.”
As for censorship, which is fierce in Singapore, Sunshine says he’s met the head of that country’s censorship board. “We are basically exempt from censorship but subject to certain conditions,” he says. “For instance, the films can only be screened at CineAsia and we must comply with their importation rules.”
Is Sunshine interested in combining with another, television-oriented organization, considering that film and TV interests these days tend to overlap?
“There obviously is a certain amount of crossover,” he says. “There is a range of possibilities, but we’ll have to see whether it makes sense. I am certainly in no rush for us to find a partner, but if the dynamics are right, I’m all ears.
“We are a small, niche show. I have never tried to expand our operation beyond the reach of exhibitors, distribution, suppliers and ancillaries. And anyway, the future will bring changes, such as more film festivals.”