Asian buyers duck Hollywood prices

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Asian activity at this year's AFM seems to be shifting focus with buyers less eager to snap up U.S. titles in a similar feeding frenzy to previous years.

Instead, the rising markets across Asia are fueling confidence among companies local to build local deals to aid expansion.

Christine Iso, L.A.-based producer of hit Asian remakes "The Ring" and "Eight Below" and a former buyer for Japan's Asmik Ace Entertainment, observes that Asian domestic productions are higher on the wish list than some Hollywood product.

"Buyers in Asia won't pay high minimum guarantees for Hollywood titles. For the same amount, say $2 million in Japan for example, they can just as easily make a whole movie at home," said Iso, who's looking at several projects for Asia.

The result at the AFM is that there just aren't that many buyers from Asia with a sense of urgency this year, observers said.

Last year, Chris Weitz's "The Golden Compass" found itself at the center of a maelstrom of Asian interest, which saw Shochiku secure it for Japanese theaters. This year, there doesn't seem to have been a single U.S. title to create a storm or pique Asian interest.

And if sellers cast their minds back four of five years ago, they recall the heady days when companies such as Toho and Golden Harvest could be counted on to pay good money for Asian territory rights, often closing key gaps in production funding.

"Buyers are saying nothing is hot," said Mina Mita, deputy director of the motion picture department at Fuji TV, Japan's dominant film producer. "There's no urgency to buy so the market just isn't hustle-bustle."

Ricky Tse, a seller from Media Asia in Hong Kong quipped that none of his Hong Kong buyer buddies were interested in much this year.

"There was huge interest in Japanese films at Cannes, but AFM is feeling rather slow," Tse said.

This echoes the sentiment at the last big regional market in Pusan, South Korea, where buyers said dealings were slow but remained confident that there would be projects to tie up at AFM.

There have been deals started at Pusan tied up here, but so far they are few. One saw Beijing-based start-up Dadi Century boarding Anthony Szeto's "Wushu," a coming-of-age martial arts drama represented at the market by Golden Network.
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