Marketing, tech talk highlight Shanghai panel

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SHANGHAI -- The 10th annual Shanghai International Film Festival seminar "Increasing Film Market Value" drew a crowd of mostly Chinese guests Monday for a discussion of the latest in film business 101, Hollywood-in-China style.

The panel discussion, subtitled "Revolution of Marketing and Distribution," featured such speakers as American Film Institute executive consultant James Hindman and L'Oreal China deputy president Lan ZhenZhen.

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In front of nearly 200 guests, talk revolved around changes brought about by new technology and the the ways in which movies are distributed and watched.

Despite the pace of change, Hindman said one must not forget that 70% of the $3.6 billion spent marketing films each year is still spent on television advertising.

What with China's 360 million television households, it is no wonder then that SIFF sponsor L'Oreal has traded on the international stardom of Chinese actress Gong Li ("Curse of the Golden Flower") to "add charm to its brands," Lan said.

For advertisers, connecting their products with a successful film can boost sales and draw lucrative licensing fees. This was Zhang Qingyong's goal when he started Filmore Media to match advertisers and films.

In one case he succeeded, he said, by cross-promoting the "Doctor" mobile movie-viewing device with the 2004 Zhang Yimou hit "Hero." The imperial period war epic starring Jet Li grossed more than $50 million in the U.S. alone and "Doctor" sales jumped 45%.

Driving home the flip side of the coin, Eric Mika, senior vp and publishing director of the Hollywood Reporter, reminded the audience that films make only 27% of their income back at the boxoffice -- a fact adding weight to the notion that films, not just products, stand to benefit from tie-ins.

With all the talk of promotion, the seminar reminded guest Augusto Seva, director and producer at Sao Paulo, Brazil-based Albatroz Cinematografica, that the industry has to focus first on making films enjoyed by average moviegoers and film reviewers alike.

"The problem for the film industry in Brazil is much the same as in China," Seva said. "It is not enough for us to just make good films; we have to develop the marketing expertise to get our films into the international market."
Which, Mika said, is not an easy thing to do.

"It isn't cheap and it remains a big risk for marketing," Mika cautioned. "But the potential rewards remain great."
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