Shanghai fest fields U.S. pitches

Industry executives storm event

Chinese bizzers at the Shanghai Film Festival were Monday treated to an array of industry execs who predicted how the Chinese movie industry would grow and gave them free introductions into the international movie biz.

“Demand for all things Chinese is growing,” Endgame Entertainment prexy, Douglas E. Hansen, told the fest’s conference series. “We can bring some structured finance into the Chinese market, we can bring stories and we can package.”

Endgame, which three years ago morphed from a financier into a producer-fund manager, already has a stake in China through an alliance with Teddy Zee’s Ironpond shingle.

Hansen said Chinese movies most likely to attract overseas coin were big-budget spectaculars, genre titles and those that have already worked in other media.

Significantly, he said, “We can finance fully Chinese movies,” without requiring them to break out into global markets.

Yu Dong, CEO of Beijing Poly Bona, China’s leading privately owned distributor, forecast that the country’s B.O. would grow from 2.6 billion yuan ($341 million) last year to $460 million this year and said $2.6 billion is possible in 10 years.

Yu said Chinese companies needed to concentrate on building the local market and not expect too much from the export sector, as Chinese films would face rising competition from local movies. He told them to get ready for mergers and acquisitions that could make the private sector players bigger and stronger.

He also added that market restrictions made it a “golden time” for Chinese firms to invest in their own movies.

“Quotas and censorship affect imported movies, therefore we are choosing to develop local movies and the local market,” he said and reminded the eager foreigners they couldn’t invest directly in Chinese movie companies.

IM Global’s Managing Director Stuart Ford delivered a carefully crafted overview of how the international sales business was evolving and suggested that Chinese companies needed to learn how to use sales agents to raise coin, establish marketing credentials and deliver movies to the world market.

Demographics were a recurring theme in the discussions. “I, Robot” and “Catch Me if You Can” producer Michel Shane said Chinese producers could tap new forms of finance if a film had its demos right.

He said half of the $10 million budget for his upcoming snowboarding heist movie “Band on the Run” had come from advertising agencies eager to tap into a youth market.

Zhang Qingyong, CEO of specialist ad agency Filmore Media, said movies were increasingly attractive as vehicles for consumer goods companies.

He cited examples of tie-ups between “Hero” and handset manufacturer Dopod, “Stuart Little” and Coca-Cola and “Lord of the Rings” and China Mobile’s M-Zone subsid, as particularly effective campaigns.

CTB Market research deputy general manager Tian Tao said films scored very highly with youth market — some 82% of cinema auds come from 15-34 age group.

L’Oreal China deputy prexy Lan Zhengzhen said film was increasingly important to advertisers as it provided aspirational and “emotional responses” that TV and print media could not provide.

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