Filmart: Thailand Expects Record 2015 for International Productions Despite Political Turmoil

Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros Pictures

A military coup last year has combined with growing competition from neighboring countries to reduce the number of film productions in Thailand.

Political turmoil sparked an 11 percent fall in location shoot revenues last year, but Thailand remains an attractive destination for international productions, and this year could be a record one, the director of the country's film office said.

Final statistics for 2014 show that 631 international productions came to shoot in Thailand, down from 717 the previous year, with revenue of over $59 million.

A military takeover in May 2014, as well as growing competition from neighboring countries, has led to a lower number of film productions in Thailand.

Ubolwan Sucharitakul, director of Thailand Film Office, is upbeat on the prospects for this year.

"We are confident that 2015 will see more international productions than ever before come to Thailand," said Ubolwan.

Thailand's spectacular natural environment and lively urban scene make it popular with overseas filmmakers, and big productions shot there in recent years include Hangover II, The Beach, The Impossible and The Lady. The massive success of the Chinese movie Lost in Thailand in 2013 has resulted in a noticeable rise in the number of Chinese tourists.

Ubolwan said there had been serious concerns from a number of these companies last year about the political situation.

"However, while international news may have spread alarm, the truth was that Thailand was fully open for business, and productions which visited Thailand were entirely unaffected."

During the year, Thailand saw 122 productions from Europe, more than any year previously, and a record 37 productions from China.

"As the Chinese market has expanded, we have heard many reports from producers that costs of production have risen, and that the skill-base has not expanded in line with the growth in demand. Thailand is increasingly attractive to Chinese producers seeking high production values, experienced crews, and reasonable costs," said Ubolwan.

"Productions from USA and Europe remain important to us. While the number of productions is unlikely to increase dramatically, the average budget is higher than for other regions. Thailand continues to be a very popular destination for films from the Indian subcontinent, seeing a steady rise," said Ubolwan.

Among the highlights was the Strike Back, one of the biggest television series ever to shoot in Thailand, which was coordinated by the local production services company Thai Occidental Production.

The background to the declining number of productions has been Thailand’s tumultuous politics. Towards the end of 2013, Bangkok was gridlocked by ongoing demonstrations trying to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

These lasted until May when martial law was declared with an army coup following two days later.

However, there are other factors, such as cheaper destinations such as Vietnam and Indonesia making improved efforts to market themselves, and also the launch of Pinewood Studios' new facility in Malaysia.

The film industry in Thailand has shown itself to be remarkably resilient.

Film production fell by one third in 2011 after Bangkok was occupied in 2010 by "Red Shirt" supporters of Yingluck's exiled brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, but bounced back to grow 45 percent and 22 percent in the next two years.

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