Thai studio eyes global market

Successful Phranakorn Film aims high

Phranakorn Film — which describes itself as a “provincial studio” and a “hillbilly hotshot” — is largely unknown outside of Thailand, but one of the most profitable. Its specialization in lowbrow comedy and sensational horror films that are aimed at suburban and rural audiences reflects the complex reality and demographic structure of the moviegoing scene in this country. Now it is eyeing international auds.

The studio has had a string of hits since it launched in 2001, when it scored with “Pee hua khad” (The Headless Ghost), that year’s biggest domestic earner. In 2005, the studio released “Luang pee Teng” (Monk Teng), a low-key comedy set in a village temple that raked in a spectacular 145 million baht ($4.2 million), ranking as the sixth all-time most financially successful Thai production. Last year, the sequel of “Monk Teng” was the second-highest earner of any Thai film.

“We’re confident that if we make comedy or horror films, we hardly ever miss,” says general manager Thawatchai Phanpakdee. “We know what the audience in the suburbs and in the provinces of this country wants to see.”

Phranakorn is aiming to increase its international profile this year by offering a variety of titles at Cannes that look to have export value, namely action and horror films. Among them are horror “Chued kon chim” (Killing and Dining), the supernatural romance “Deep in the Jungle” and the actioner “Hanuman klook foon”.

“We have had booths in Cannes and AFM, and we believe that a bigger catalog will increase our chance in the international market,” Phanpakdee says, “so we’ve been trying to make more action films. Our performance in Thailand remains our focus.”

This year the studio is sending a rep to Filmart, though it didn’t have a booth, as they did last year. They will, however, be participating at the upcoming film market in Cannes.

Phranakorn Film belongs to the Thanarungroj family, which over the past three decades has built a mini-empire from its de facto monopoly of the rights to distribute all Thai films in the central and northern parts of the country. The family also owns 40 multiplexes in the provinces, mainly in the central plains. Phranakorn Film was set up eight years ago to complete the business cycle, taking the company from production to distribution.

“Our audience is made up largely of factory workers, security guards, vendors and office workers,” Phanpakdee says. “Last year we tried to diversify by making an action pic, ‘Hanuman klook foon,’ and the supernatural love story ‘Deep in the Jungle.’ Still, horror and comedy remain our strongest products.”

Both “Hanuman klook foon” and “Deep in the Jungle” weren’t as successful as comedy and horror films. Both titles made under $700,000, whereas the average B.O. of Phranakorn Film comedy and horror is more than $1 million.