The Hong Kong film industry will be given greater access to the $9 billion mainland Chinese movie market following a relaxation of rules that had kept Hong Kong films and film makers on a separate footing.
The territory which returned to China in 1997 after 150 years of British colonial rule, saw its film industry flourish in the 1970s-1990s when China largely closed itself off from the world. Since 2003, the Hong Kong film industry has had privileged access to China as part of the wider Closer Economic Partnership Agreement. But there were still restrictions and requirements — such as one that said mainland Chinese performers must account for at least a third of the cast in co-productions.
The Hong Kong government announced on Tuesday that mainland authorities had agreed to five changes.
They include: the removal of a restriction on the number of Hong Kong people participating in mainland film productions; and the removal of a restriction on the percentage of artistes, and a requirement of mainland-related plots in mainland-Hong Kong co-productions.
Other measures include the waiving of fees for mainland-Hong Kong co-productions; allowing Hong Kong films and film practitioners to apply for nomination for awards in mainland film festivals; and allow Hong Kong film companies to apply for incentives for distributing and promoting outstanding mainland motion pictures, and mainland-Hong Kong co-productions in Hong Kong, Macau and overseas.
Despite the past restrictions, Hong Kong has participated significantly in the mainland film industry. Hit films including “Operation Red Sea,” the “Detective Dee” franchise, and “Monster Hunt,” all Hong Kong-China co-productions. Hong Kong-produced “P Storm” is currently top of the mainland Chinese box office.
The latest moves were presented by Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau as beneficial to both mainland and Hong Kong industries. “It would encourage Hong Kong film industry to play a more active role in production and promotion of Mainland films and co-productions, enhance the reputation and recognition of Hong Kong films in the Mainland and provide more opportunities in the Mainland for (the Hong Kong) film industry.”
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam warned against Hong Kong film makers using the moves to ditch mainland Chinese stories and morals. “Hong Kong is very proud of our freedom of expression, and we welcome movie makers to make the best use of that freedom of expression to do a diversity of movies. But if these movies have to be screened or made in another jurisdiction, then of course they have to follow the rules and regulations of that jurisdiction,” she said.
The Hong Kong film industry had lobbied for two years for the changes. The move was welcomed by Eric Tsang, executive chairman of the Association for the Betterment of Hong Kong’s Entertainment Industry in Mainland China. “The new measures will allow local industry practitioners to share the benefits of mainland industry’s success,” Tsang said in a statement.
“The five relaxation measures include removing the restriction on the number of Hong Kong talents participating in Mainland film productions. We definitely welcome this move, as it will give those from the local industry a better chance of tapping into the Mainland market,” said Albert Yeung, chairman of the Emperor Group. Yeung is expected to join a Hong Kong film industry delegation to meet with relevant authorities in Beijing on Wednesday.
In her recent policy address, Lam announced the injection of HK$1 billion into the largely depleted Film Development Fund. She said the move requires the development of the Hong Kong film industry in four broad directions: nurturing talent; enhancing local production; expanding markets; and building audiences. Measures to be launched include enhancing the First Feature Film Initiative and the Film Production Financing Scheme.