'Stormrider' sells, Filmart heats up

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HONG KONG -- Expect strong sales from this year's Hong Kong Filmart, exhibitors said, based on two busy initial days.

Hong Kong's Universe Entertainment reported additional sales for the highest-profile movie selling at this year's Filmart, "The Stormriders II," with Scorpio East picking up Singapore rights, Monofilm purchasing rights for Thailand and PT Teguh Bakti Mandiri buying distribution rights in Indonesia. Prices were not disclosed.

Universe had previously announced Golden Harvest taking Hong Kong rights to "Stormriders II," with Golden Harvest and its parent company Chengtian buying them for China. The pair will split distribution among the cinemas they own throughout the country based on ownership.

In the first two days of Filmart, Malaysia's delegation of 28 companies secured deals worth $13.5 million, according to Adam Ham, of Malaysia's Multimedia Development Corp. They included a three-feature film deal between Malaysia's Film Point and Orisa Produzioni of Italy; Cartoon4Kids with Creative Power Entertaining of China to develop two animated series; Macera Technology of Malaysia and Bubble Mon Licensing of Hong Kong to develop mobile phone games and to distribute Bubble Mon's video clips to Malaysia and around Southeast Asia.

Malaysia's FrameMotion Studio also signed a deal to co-produce a 3-D animated TV series with Beijing Donghai International Movie & TV Culture, and another pact to co-produce a virtual reality program and a 3-D animated TV series with an unnamed Italian company.

In addition, Disney has expressed interest in worldwide distribution for the Mandarin-language $15 million supernatural thriller "Painted Skin," according to Michael Lai, distribution manager for Eastern Mordor Film, the film's international sales agent. He said he hoped to close the deal at Cannes.

Star TV bought the film's pay-TV rights for Taiwan and other Asian territories, Lai said, but provided no further details.

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

Other exhibitors from around the region agreed that this year's Filmart had been quite active.

"Hong Kong has traditionally been busy for us," said Tom Oh, international sales and acquisitions chief of South Korea's CJ Entertainment. "We think our sales this year should end up better than last year, and presales for our projects have been strong."

South Korean film producer Jonathan Kim said that there was a lot of buying going on regarding IPTV, which is developing rapidly in Korea.

Canada, France, Spain, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia all sent larger contingents this year than for the 2007 market, and all reported busy schedules throughout the first two days.

"I feel that there were certainly more visitors and meetings at the Japanese booths than last year, although that is almost certainly because we have 11 companies exhibiting in the UniJapan booth this time, as opposed to just eight last year," said Soya Azusa, a spokeswoman for UniJapan.

"The bigger companies -- Avex, Gaga and Nikkatsu -- seem to have been constantly busy since we opened on Monday morning, although the newer companies are less well known and have not matched that," she said. "It's a case of building a presence and we hope to continue to be able to do that."

Smaller countries also were happy with this year's Filmart.

"We definitely feel this year as been as good as last year," said Adam Ham, of Malaysia's Multimedia Development Corp. "But what has improved is that, because of our MOU with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and Filas of Italy is that we could arrange a lot of business to business meetings ahead of time."

Some, however, felt that interest in China had cooled slightly from previous years.

"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."

Karen Chu and Julian Ryall contributed to this report.
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