Exhibs push for earlier U.S. releases

Companies using 'full frontal assault' at ShoWest

HONG KONG — Hollywood pics often make a tardy appearance in Hong Kong, but the city’s exhibitors say there is little fashionable — or profitable — about the late arrivals.

Trying to improve upon the current status quo, exhibs including UA Cinemas, Broadway Circuit and Golden Harvest are teaming up to lobby the major U.S. studios to open movies in Hong Kong day-and-date with their domestic release, says Bob Vallone, general manager at UA Cinemas.

The “full frontal assault,” as Vallone calls it, is planned to take place at ShowWest in Las Vegas this March.

Besides capitalizing on simultaneous marketing and publicity, the practice can help stymie the obvious major problem in the region: piracy

So says Audrey Lee, general manager of sales and acquisitions at Edko Films, parent of Hong Kong’s Broadway Circuit theaters.

Currently, many big pics reach Hong Kong about two months after the U.S. release. “Cold Mountain” for example, which was released domestically on Christmas Day, won’t open until mid-February in Hong Kong.

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Traditionally, later releases allowed for extra time needed to subtitle prints and ship publicity materials overseas.

While exhibitors are aware of the issues, they believe their goal of getting blockbuster pics within one week of the U.S. release is reasonable and would be beneficial.

Teerachai Triwongwaranat, director of film distribution at Golden Harvest Entertainment, says the company, which has 26 screens in Hong Kong, is bullish on the effort after seeing the success of day-and-date releases at its theaters in Singapore and Malaysia.

UA, which has 38 screens in Hong Kong, has already had preliminary meetings with the major studios. “We have already received some commitments to open the films much faster than in past years,” Vallone says.

Exhibs agree the situation is already “getting better,” citing “X2,” “Spider-Man” and “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” — all of which opened day-and-date in Hong Kong.

Looking ahead, Triwongwaranat expects many films to open day-and-date with the U.S. this summer. “That’s good news,” he says.

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