Hong Kong film mart reflects tight budgets

Decline of Asian market carries over to film buyers

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong International Film Market has made its mark as a place where industry people from around the world can get together and moan about the decline of the Asian market.

The overall number of participants at Filmart held steady at about 600, though the number of exhibitors slipped from 70 at last year’s inaugural event to 61 this time around.

The Trade Development Council, which organizes the event, has set next year’s market for June 23-25, again at the convention center.

“We want to anchor the date and place,” said the TDC’s Jenny Koo. She said the number of Chinese buyers tripled to 180 this year, which will be a strong selling point when promoting next year’s market.

Some of the local players shunned booths this year. Film production house Shaw Brothers and TVBI, the international arm of the local terrestrial broadcaster TVB, both decided not to invest in real estate at the event.

And big film names such as China Star and Golden Harvest scaled back their booths after splashing out last year.

Scaling down

Koo said tight budgets are to blame. “They don’t want to put the money into (booths),” she said. “It doesn’t mean they don’t support the market.”

There were some new exhibitors from the U.S., U.K., Australia, Thailand and South Korea who came to test the waters. They all got the hard sell from Koo and her colleagues.

“Filmart pursued us,” said Lucan Devenn, the president and CEO of Venice, Calif. based distribber Redwood Communications. “So far we’ve made some sales and made some contacts. If we break even, that’s okay. It’s better to observe the front lines than just read the trades.”

Discount prices

Devenn said prices are discounted across the board because of the economic turmoil engulfing the region. “It’s accepted that their backs are against the wall,” he said. “Certainly everyone is making concessions.”

Devenn added that he sees Hong Kong as a bridge between the U.S. and the potentially lucrative China market.

“Hong Kong can communicate with China,” he said. “Even with all the economic trouble, you can still platform out of Hong Kong to Asia.”

In fact, Hong Kong has partnered with China on 200 of the 300 co productions that have been made since 1979, according to Zheng Quangang, president of the China Film Co. productions Corp.

But Hong Kong is having its own problems these days. Charles Heung, executive director of China Star, estimated that local filmmakers will produce between 60 and 70 movies this year, compared with 90 last year and more than 200 a few years ago. He also expects box office revenues to decrease by the same percentage.