United Intl. Pictures will reshape itself in 2007 to handle more local films in Asia.
“We will empower our managers to behave in a more entrepreneurial fashion,” said UIP’s VP of sales and marketing, Kurt Rieder. “In Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, in particular, that means we will be making more local acquisitions.”
Move comes as the operation, jointly owned by Universal and Paramount, forgoes some studio titles in parts of the region, and as Hollywood movies encounter ever fiercer competition from Asian-made pictures.
Rieder, who Thursday received the distributor-of-the-year award at the CineAsia convention in Beijing, described UIP’s strategy as “the future of distribution.”
Idea is to leverage the distribution and marketing muscle that comes with the constant flow of studio titles from U, Par and DreamWorks and to make up for any weakness in that lineup.
“As many (Hollywood) studios are becoming more risk-averse, they are making big, internationally-minded pictures and smaller movies that they aim to make their money back from North American theatrical, video and TV.
“In the international markets, we could do with more of those blockbuster tentpoles,” Rieder said. “But that’s why UIP is picking up local films, and it is why Universal and Paramount both have plans to produce more locally.”
When UIP handles local titles, it rarely pays for rights, and may indeed seek a P&A commitment from the local rights owner, but Rieder said local players are increasingly attracted to using the studio-crafted structure. “UIP is an extremely solid and transparent distributor, and a revenue-share deal usually works out better for the rights holder than a minimum guarantee arrangement,” Rieder said.
Although UIP has been broken up in much of the rest of the world, org is largely being kept together in Asia (which excludes Oz and New Zealand). In 2006 to date, it reported B.O. of $301 million, with Japan contributing $113 million, Korea $67 million and China, overtaking Taiwan for the first time, $29 million.
Growth was achieved in the face of shrinking video windows, strong media inflation and continuing issues of piracy across the region and market access in China.
UIP’s Asian operations next year will not include Korea, where U has gone it alone, and Par has struck a partnership with CJ Entertainment. In China, UIP will handle only Paramount and Dream Works’ live-action movies, with Dream Works Animation handled by CJ and U released through Edko.
Even though they will no longer be in the UIP fold, both territories will continue to be overseen by Rieder alongside the org’s 13 revenue-sharing territories.