HK Filmart wraps on positive note

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HONG KONG – The Hong Kong International Film and TV Market, known affectionately across Asia simply as Filmart ended Thursday after four days of brisk trade indicating growth in the regional movie industry.

A survey from Filmart sponsors the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) showed that stated 70% of respondents attending the show said that business was satisfactory over the past 12 months, with 82% seeing the digital entertainment arena as offering the greatest opportunities.

A main topic of discussion at Filmart's conferences and in its aisles was co-productions, especially in China. More than 90% of survey respondents said this was the latest trend, with 55% believing that co-productions between China and Hong Kong would be the strongest in the region.

Sixty percent of respondents saw Filmart as the region’s most important film market in Asia, the HKTDC said.

One attendee from Japan saw it as a particularly productive market.

"I have not been to the market for the last couple of years, but this has been the busiest for us that I have ever attended," said Shinji Sakoda, general manager of the Licensing and International Business Affairs Division of Pony Canyon Inc.

"We have had a very warm welcome for the Japanese films that we have presented here and there have been more serious buyers come to talk to us then I have ever seen before," Sakoda said.

Working with Fuji Television, the company had interest in a number of feature films, including "I Just Didn't Do It" and "Gatchi Boy."

"We have been busy and I am exhausted -- but I feel very fortunate that we have been made so welcome. It has all been worth it," he added.

During the course of the market, sellers said Disney had expressed interest in worldwide distribution for the Mandarin-language $15 million supernatural thriller "Painted Skin," now in production in Shanghai, and Hong Kong's Universe Entertainment reported several Asian sales for the highest-profile movie selling at this year's Filmart, "The Stormriders II."

On the market's first day, Fortissimo Films announced that it sold South Korean rights for Majid Majidi's "The Song of Sparrows" to Unikorea for an undisclosed amount.

South Korean producers said there was a lot of buying going on to fuel that country's growing IPTV market, and Canada, France, Spain, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia all sent larger delegations to Filmart this year.

Some had mixed feelings about business in China, saying interest in breaking into the large but restrictive market had cooled.

"The enthusiasm for China has definitely waned," said Michael George, managing director of MTG Media. "The general sentiment is that China has made it clear they are using censorship as a quota system, and outside sellers have accepted it."

Weinstein Co. founder Harvey Weinstein made a surprise appearance at the Asian Film Awards on Monday night, as part of a trip to salvage a China-based project, "Shanghai," which was derailed in February when it was denied a location permit for Shanghai.

- Julian Ryall contributed to this report.
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