SARS bumps film, TV mart

Hong Kong's Filmart postponed 'til Sept.

The outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has postponed yet another key Hong Kong film event.

Filmart, Hong Kong’s film and television market, will unspool Sept. 24-26, not June 25-27 as planned.

The change comes after the organizer, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, surveyed exhibitors about the best time to hold the event, given overseas concerns about travelling to Hong Kong.

The date is more convenient for overseas guests who would likely do Filmart and South Korea’s Pusan Intl. Film Festival, Oct2-10, in one trip.

The news comes after the World Health Organization said this week that the worst of the outbreak appeared to be over in Singapore, Hong Kong and Canada.

Meanwhile, SARS scares may be hitting China , but the northern city of Changchun is moving ahead with a massive new film studio park to attract tourists to the area.

According to the state-owned Xinhua news agency, construction has just begun on the development, which includes 10 sightseeing centers where visitors will be able to watch films in large screen and digital formats.

The new studio facility, dubbed Changying Century Town, was first suggested early last year when Changchun Film Group announced it would cover the investment of one billion yuan ($120 million). The city is already home to the country’s biggest film production facilities.

Funding has now risen to close to $180 million through a combination of bank loans, business invitations and capital raised from the disposal of old factories.

The centers will open on Oct. 1, 2004. Later stages will focus on film processing facilities and back lots for production.

Changchun Film Group has been restructuring its management since 1998. While continuing to produce around 30 films a year, the company has recently moved into the exhib industry, with a new venture called Oriental Divine Dragon in a co-operation with Poly Group, one of China’s biggest telecommunication and property developers. The new development allows the company to branch out into tourism.

Despite media claims that the park will be China’s first studio and theme park combined, Shanghai Film Studios already functions as a park.

Foreign parks are also clambering into the market. Disney — whose Hong Kong park is due to open in 2006 — has reportedly not given up hope of a theme park on the Mainland, despite failing to reach agreement with Shanghai authorities last year.

Universal is also on the verge of breaking ground on a theme park on the Mainland, due for completion in 2006.

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