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Though it's ShoWest that's usually associated with the bright lights of casinos, this year's CineAsia will feature plenty of Vegas-style glitz. For the first time, the CineAsia convention will be held in Macau, often referred to as "the Las Vegas of Asia."
"Macau's centrally located for both Southeast and North Asia, and a fitting analogy for Las Vegas, which has proven to be a good home for ShoWest for so many years," says Kurt Rieder, vp sales and marketing for United International Pictures in Asia and recipient of the Distributor of the Year award at last year's CineAsia.
Mitch Neuhauser, co-managing director of CineAsia, says that Macau's appeal will significantly boost attendance for this year's show. "We are confident that attendance at CineAsia 2007 could set a new record in our 13-year history."
"From an entertainment point of view, it's a very exciting destination, (and) our business is entertainment," adds Jeffrey Forman, Disney's senior vp sales and marketing for Asia-Pacific.
The hub of the convention, which runs Dec. 4-6, will be the Wynn Macau, a 20-story casino and hotel that opened last year. Rieder calls the casino, which features seven restaurants and over 200 gambling tables, a "state-of-the-art hotel and convention facility." Co-managing director Bob Sunshine notes, however, that the main appeal will remain the programming and trade shows at CineAsia. "Although there is plenty to see in Macau, we anticipate that attendance at events will be very high."
In anticipation of the show, Sunshine traveled to the Asia-Pacific region to discuss pertinent issues with the exhibitors. "All of these topics will be addressed at the conference: digital and 3-D cinema, and business plans and marketing strategies for it; piracy -- but from a more upbeat perspective -- not how much it's hurting our industry, but what we can do differently to stop it; and also what we can do to promote the moviegoing experience."
Forman says he is looking forward to discussing these hot topics.
"3-D is starting to take off in the U.S. and also internationally, so I think that will be a subject of discussion. I think piracy is always a subject of concern. It's a good chance for us to talk about that issue as well."
The first day of the convention will feature conferences on both digital cinema and 3-D technologies; both will also play a major role in the trade show, ongoing throughout the conference, where many of the major players in 3-D cinema will be in attendance.
"The trade show is a sellout. All of the new digital and 3-D technologies will be on display," Sunshine notes. "It's a great opportunity for the Asian film community to become acquainted with these technologies."
Sunshine is also looking forward to the second annual CineAsia Summit, which brings together the presidents and CEOs of the major Asian exhibitors to meet in an informal setting with the major Hollywood studios. "You can't get the same dialogue at the major presentations. This really gives an opportunity for face-to-face discussion," he explains.
As always, one of the highlights of the convention will be the screenings, with Disney presenting the holiday family film "Enchanted" on the second day, Warner Bros. showing "I Am Legend," a sci-fi thriller starring Will Smith, and Universal and Fox bringing in films that had not been determined as of press time.
Fox's International's vp Asia-Pacific Sunder Kimatrai says the studio is excited to discuss its entire upcoming lineup, including the animated "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and the Christmas Day release "Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem."
"(We hope) to generate the same kind of excitement among the exhibition fraternity for this lineup that we have internally," he says. "At the end of the day, it's our exhibition partners who take these films to the public and play a key role in delivering us the results that we enjoy from these films."
Aside from the appeal of the special events, Sunshine and Neuhauser stress that the greatest asset of CineAsia is its ability to bring together exhibitors and distributors from across a huge region. "CineAsia has become a meeting place for the major exhibitors in Asia to come to one location and establish dialogue and communication. Up until this show, there have been few opportunities for that," Sunshine says.
Neuhauser emphasizes the different challenges facing exhibitors in the Asia-Pacific market as compared to the United States. "At CineAsia, an exhibitor from Indonesia can meet with an exhibitor from India. They learn from each other. It's such a great opportunity for all these theater operations to come together."
He adds that distributors also benefit from the huge number of attendees at the convention. "You can accomplish in three days at CineAsia what it would take several weeks to do if you had to meet with all the circuit operators on their home turf," he explains. "At CineAsia, distributors get to liaise with exhibitors from the entire region in one place."
Kimatrai agrees. "I find CineAsia to be a remarkably effective way of meeting, interacting and extending my relationships with the various exhibitors that we do business with. It also allows us to have effective individual meetings with them, given that it's a very fragmented region."
William Shao, executive deputy manager for Wanda Cinema Line Corp. in Beijing, says he is "looking forward to meeting more old friends and new ones" at CineAsia and calls the convention "the bridge between the Asia-Pacific region and the whole world for the film industry.
"I really appreciate CineAsia for its contribution to the film industry, especially Mr. Robert Sunshine," Shao continues. "I have been deeply impressed at his enthusiasm for the film industry, and he always helps different people from different companies involved in the industry get together for more communication and more progress."