CineAsia could move to South China resort

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BEIJING -- Organizers of CineAsia, the largest film industry convention to focus on the Asia-Pacific market, are in talks to move next year's show from China's capital to a casino resort in South China.

"We're definitely moving and have started negotiations with the Wynn Macau," Bob Sunshine, vp of VNU Film Exposition Group said on the opening day of the 14-year-old trade show he brought to Beijing for the first time last year. Two years in, it is difficult to operate the show here freely, he said.

Despite enjoying strong support from Chinese media regulators in Beijing and from the state-run China Film Group Corp., Sunshine said that doing business in Beijing has been "tough" because VNU must operate the show through the state-run China Film Equipment Co.

"We have to do everything in the name of the licensee, which means that we can't maintain total control of our show," Sunshine said.

The decision to move CineAsia to a Western resort inside the relative economic freedom of the Macau special administrative zone, a former Portuguese colony, comes fast on the heels last month of Warner Bros. International Cinemas pulling its investment out of the Chinese theater building sector. WBIC cited a change in government rules governing foreign ownership of cinema properties as the reason for its exit (HR 11/9).

As an example of the sort of trouble CineAsia has encountered in Beijing, organizers said that, on Tuesday, Chinese customs held up a digital trailer that was supposed to screen before the convention's opening night dinner at the IMAX theater inside the China National Film Museum.

VNU also is in talks to hold part of the 2007 CineAsia confab in the Macau Tower Convention and Entertainment Center, Sunshine said. "We've moved our show pretty constantly in Asia trying to find the right market, but we haven't yet been able to find the right location to attract the numbers to make the networking we're all about happen," he said.

All 126 booths in the CineAsia convention hall at the China World Hotel are sold out and there are about 350 pre-registered guests, but attendance at this year's edition of the three-day conference is expected to be flat compared with 2005, Sunshine said.

Supporting a move to Macau was Kurt Rieder, United International Pictures vp of sales and marketing in Asia.

"For networking, we must go where the exhibitors want to go and I would bet that when they're making their December plans in October, they'd rather go to Macau than Beijing. It's more fun," said Rieder, CineAsia's Distributor of the Year.

Beijing's chilly December weather and the fact that there are no direct flights to the mainland from Taiwan, also have worked to keep attendance flat, Rieder said.

"CineAsia is losing momentum and we've already talked to plenty of exhibitors in Taiwan who didn't come here but say they would easily make the trip to Macau," Rieder said.

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