Hong Kong is expecting the largest-ever delegation of executives from mainland China to descend on FilMart March 13. That is despite — or perhaps because of — the dramatic slowdown in China’s theatrical box office last year.
This year’s event is the 21st running of the Hong Kong Intl. Film & TV Market, better known as FilMart, and will be held over four days (March 13 to 16) at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in the Wanchai district of the island.
FilMart organizer, the HK Trade Development Council, says the Chinese contingent will include numerous delegations from provincial governments and production companies, helping to swell the number of exhibitors to some 800.
Industry players say the Chinese domestic box office slowdown has prompted parts of the mainland industry to redouble their efforts on the global stage. And FilMart, already the third-largest film market in the world after Cannes and the American Film Market, is the closest and most timely event to start that campaign.
Several of the Chinese provincial governments have a particular focus on animation and digital entertainment, in which many have invested infrastructure capital.
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The Fujian Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television will host a pavilion for the first time at the market, bringing local film production, animation and distribution companies to meet international visitors. The Ningbo government will also make its debut at FilMart, with a pavilion showcasing local film production, animation, and 3D production capacity.
The focus on animation from Fujian and Ningbo governments follows the hype in China, sparked by the premiere of animated Sino drama “Have a Nice Day” in main competition at the Berlin Film Festival last month.
The animated film, directed by Liu Jian, is sure to be cited at a panel discussion on the international potential of Chinese animation during the mart.
Similarly, the direction of the Chinese industry will be the subject of several debates during FilMart.
Last year’s box office slowdown — from growth of 49% in 2015 to under 4% in 2016 — has shaken the industry. And “The Great Wall,” with a $300 million gross that fell short of many forecasts, means that the co-production route to success continues to look tricky.
Hunan and Guangzhou provinces are also sending delegations to FilMart for the first time. Big name mainland firms, such as video streaming giant iQiyi and leading TV producer Daylight Entertainment, will be among the exhibitors.
Fox Networks Group will exhibit for the first time and make announcements about the network’s forthcoming expansion into production of Asian miniseries.
The local Hong Kong contingent can be sure of operating from some of the biggest and flashiest market structures — stands, booths, and pavilions all seem too puny — but Hong Kong film companies have scheduled fewer big presentations than in previous years.
Sun Entertainment, Emperor Motion Pictures, Universe Films, and even a revived Shaw Bros. have called press conferences to preview their new projects. Media Asia also has new titles on its slate, and Fantastic TV, a new Hong Kong free-to-air TV network controlled by i-Cable Communications, will make its debut.
Other Asian territories — including Thailand, Malaysia, India, and Indonesia — are also sending delegations and exhibitors to attend FilMart, some for the first time.
FilMart is less a screenings event than those markets attached to major festivals such as Cannes or Toronto. But it will nevertheless host market screenings for some 40 titles, and gain kudos from the inclusion of notable award recipients “On Body and Soul,” this year’s Berlin Golden Bear winner, and “Mad World,” winner of the new director and supporting actress prizes at the most recent Golden Horse Film Awards in Taiwan.