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Cabler gets into movie fest mood

Simultaneous screenings not plot to undermine fest

HONG KONG — Paybox Cable TV looked like it had pulled off quite a coup when it aired movies playing at the Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival on one of its three movie channels in March and April.

But the simultaneous airing was not — as some moviegoers suspected — a plot to undermine the festival.

In fact, it was planned by this year’s festival director Peter Tsi, formerly Cable TV’s operations controller responsible for its movie channels.

While at Cable TV, Tsi worked out a deal with fest organizers — then run by the government — to air a handful of films on its internationally focused Movie Channel 2, out of the 200 at the festival.

Tsi’s idea was simple: film fest organizers could help acquire rights for Cable TV to air certain overseas movies in exchange for Cable TV promoting the fest.

Auds OK

Cable TV and film fest organizers say had no complaints from moviegoers about the overlap even though they paid HK$55 ($7) to watch films at one of nine venues across Hong Kong when they could have seen them in the comfort of their own homes.

In fact, Tsi says the joint promotion works out for everyone. “Most audiences book in advance anyway, and won’t deliberately sit home to see a festival movie because they prefer the festival atmosphere,” he says.

“And it works out conveniently for those who found their movie was all sold out because it might be playing on television. Plus it’s useful for those who might not normally go to the film festival.”

Cable TV typically waits a day or two after a film gets its fest airing before showing it on its own channel.

“We buy them for multiple runs because it is quite hard to find international niche films in Hong Kong,” says Winnie Ngai, programmer for Cable TV’s movie channels. “Usually, it’s easier to watch Hollywood or Hong Kong films. We think the audiences appreciated it.”

This year, Cable TV aired “Slogans,” an Albania/France co-production, Egypt/France co-production “Silence…We’re Rolling” and France’s “Va savoir,” “Time Out”, “Martha…Martha” and “A Hell of a Day.”

Ngai is now looking to acquire films that are linked to the Cannes and Toronto film fests.