Backdoor Into the Chinese Film Market

6:00 AM PST 11/27/2012 by Patrick Brzeski

ScreenSingapore reinvents itself as Asia's premier gateway into the world's fastest-growing movie market.

If you're thinking about attending the ScreenSingapore screenings but don't know whether the second edition of the Southeast Asian film confab is worth your while, consider this: One in six households in Singapore has more than $1 million of disposable capital lying around, which is the highest national percentage of millionaires in the world, according to the Boston Consulting Group. And Singapore is only getting richer, as ultrahigh-net-worth individuals have begun to flock to the city-state for its low tax rates (Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin traded in his U.S. passport for Singaporean citizenship earlier this year).

"There are a lot of wealthy individuals and sophisticated investors here," says Singapore-based producer Philip Lee, who tells THR he secured a substantial chunk of the $30 million he raised for Cloud Atlas in Singapore. "If you find the right guy and show him that it's a viable business, there's great financing potential in this city."

Still not convinced? Then consider the fact that this year ScreenSingapore is positioning itself as a key point of access to the booming Chinese film market, which in the first nine months of 2012 already has matched last year's box-office total of $2.1 billion.

Given the strength of China's relationship with Singapore -- the sovereign nation leads Southeast Asia as a trade partner and counts Chinese as an official language -- insiders say ScreenSingapore offers practical insights into how to do business within China.

The first day of film industry conferences kicks off with a new "Focus on China," featuring an opening keynote by Yu Dong, founder and CEO of Bona Film Group, China's largest private film concern, which News Corp. took a 19.9 percent stake in this year.

Yu tells THR he will be emphasizing the need to strengthen ties between China and Hollywood.

"Hollywood studios have extensive production experience and superior technology, and China has the booming market," he says. "I'm very excited by the prospects of this relationship, and I'm looking forward to finding more ways to collaborate with Hollywood."

Fox International Productions president Sanford Panitch also will participate in a panel, followed by a discussion of the intricacies of the all-important Chinese co-production approval process.

Given how opaque China's state-run film sector can be, Gilbert Lim, executive vp at Thailand's Sahamongkolfilm International, says Screen-Singapore will offer an invaluable glimpse behind the veil of the world's fastest-growing film sector.

"Singapore is a particularly good place for cultivating Chinese business," he says. "The country itself is quite Chinese and has close ties to the Chinese government."

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SINGAPORE ESSENTIALS: Where to eat, drink and play when the work is over

The Rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel: With ScreenSingapore moving to flashy new digs at the Moshe Safdie-designed Marina Bay Sands this year, there will be plenty of business done at the unique structure, which looks vaguely like a row of enormous clothespins with a giant skateboard on top. Don't miss the casino's 57th-floor rooftop, where a pool club, cocktail lounge, nightclub and restaurant wrap around an Olympic-length infinity pool that offers a stunning view of the city skyline. "If you need a great place for a casual sit-down with clients over coffee or a cocktail, check out the bar beside that crazy pool on the roof -- it's just extraordinary," says Greg Coote, chairman of ScreenSingapore.

The Food Bazaars: Singapore's semi-open-air food bazaars, known as "hawker centers," house wall-to-wall food stalls serving Malaysian, Cantonese, Thai, Indian, Singaporean and more -- everything fragrant, authentic and fresh. There are 107 hawker centers in Singapore, according to the local government, so there's essentially at least one in every neighborhood.

The Long Bar: No trip to Singapore would be complete without a pilgrimage to the historic Long Bar at the grand old Raffles Hotel, where the Singapore Sling was invented about 100 years ago by local barkeep Ngiam Tong Boon. Many things have changed in the intervening century; the eternally refreshing Singapore Sling is not one of them. 

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