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Hong Kong Filmart: Rise in Exhibitors and Buyers Amid a Slow Market

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

While organizers report a 10 percent rise in attending delegates, reps speak of a slow market devoid of showpiece launches.

HONG KONG -- Organizers of Hong Kong’s Filmart say a record number of exhibitors and buyers for the media-content market that wrapped Thursday.

According to figures released by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, 710 exhibitors and 6,300 buyers attended Filmart 2013, which ran from March 18-21. There were “notable increases” in representatives from “emerging markets” such as Russia, Cambodia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand and India, a press statement said.

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Meanwhile, the TV World showcase hosted 250 exhibition reps, an increase of as much as 30 percent, the TDC said. Among the first-time attendees are Al Jazeera Media Network, whose head of distribution, Jonathan Wong, told The Hollywood Reporter that the company’s presence in Hong Kong is more about touching base with local clients than dealmaking.

Wong’s approach proved to be a much-shared sentiment by industry delegates at Filmart this year. Some exhibitors and buyers told THR about witnessing a comparatively quiet event this year, with a distinct lack of showpiece announcements.

Hong Kong studios have remained steadfastly supportive of the event by unveiling their slates at Filmart. Emperor Motion Pictures decided to launch its Go Local collaboration with Star Chinese Movies on the first day and then parade its upcoming comedy The Midas Touch on the third. Media Asia hosted press events for two of its Johnnie To movies, Drug War (which was shown as a gala premiere at the Hong Kong International Film Festival) and Blind Detective, and also a new Pang Ho-cheung-produced comedy called Sex Duties Unit. China 3D, meanwhile, unleashed three new projects too, among them the sequel to the sex comedy Due West.

For all the talk about the rise of mainland China, however, the big companies are holding back on making major splashes at Filmart. Beijing Galloping Horse is among the few companies that chose to launch a potential blockbuster here, but the announcement of a new 1940s-set John Woo war epic -- co-produced with China Film Group and Huace Film and TV, with special effects to be done by the newly acquired Digital Domain -- wasn’t accompanied with the presence of either the director or the cast, which reportedly includes Zhang Ziyi and Song Hye-kyo.

Huayi Brothers, for one, has held back on organizing press events for what should have been a cracking slate featuring Tsui Hark’s Young Detective Dee and Daniel Wu Yin-cho’s feature directorial debut Control. Bona Film, beaten into third place in the Chinese box office for 2012 by a Lost in Thailand-fueled Enlight Media, is comparatively more active, with a press launch for Dante Lam’s MMA and its CEO, Yu Dong, appearing as a panelist for the development competition jointly organized by the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum and Fox International Pictures, whose parent organization News Corp. owns 19.9 percent of Bona’s stakes.

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Then again, Filmart certainly provided attendees with an up-close view of Hong Kong’s industry today, with a seminar featuring HK filmmakers discussing -- somehow tellingly in Putonghua -- making genre films in the looming shadow of the mainland Chinese market and international buyers and distributors sharing views about how to market Chinese-language films beyond the brand names of Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the time-sensitivity of their own projects, industry delegates from China, Japan, Korea and India have told THR they are eyeing a more high-profile launch at Cannes in May.