From sneak peeks of Hollywood films to Cantonese cuisine, Asia's annual industry confab held in Hong Kong has plenty to offer.
CineAsia, the exhibition and distribution industry conference hosted in Hong Kong every autumn, long has been an essential stop on the Asian entertainment calendar. But recent trends in the global film business are giving the event an added sense of urgency this year. In addition to networking with studio execs and in-depth panel discussions remaking the cinema business, CineAsia treats foreign exhibitors to full screenings of upcoming Hollywood titles. It can be a hectic three-day event, so it's good to have a plan going in.
On Nov. 16, China raced past the United States to become the country with the most movie screens in the world, according to IHS Markit, a London-based market research firm. "China has been building cinema screens at a rate of over 10 a day for the past five years, rising to 27 a day this year," says David Hancock, IHS Technology's director of film and cinema analysis. With panels and presentations about everything from theater renovation to attracting millennials to movie theaters, CineAsia offers ground-level insight into the dynamics of distribution and exhibition in a region of the world where four of the top seven box-office territories reside (China, Japan, India and South Korea, respectively).
This year's lineup of studio preview screenings includes Disney Animation's 3D musical comedy adventure Moana, voiced by Dwayne Johnson and newcomer Auli'i Cravalho; Illumination Entertainment's 3D computer-animated musical comedy Sing, featuring the voices of Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson; and Universal Pictures' Split, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring James McAvoy. EuropaCorp's Luc Besson also is expected to turn up in Hong Kong to present an exclusive look at his sci-fi epic Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, starring Cara Delevingne and Dane DeHaan.
Mobile ticketing services have emerged as one of the most controversial forces shaping the Asian entertainment business today — especially in the huge China market. An estimated 70 percent of all movie tickets are sold online in China, compared to about 20 percent in the U.S. On the one hand, ticket-buying apps have helped connect millions of new moviegoers to cinemas, generating mountains of valuable data on audience behavior and demographics in the process. On the other hand, China watchers point to price distortions caused by cash-flush mobile ticketing services offering steep discounts as one of the key factors behind the abrupt slowdown in box-office growth in China this year. On Dec. 6 Jo Yan, managing director of Universal China, and Luke Xiang, vp of Beijing Weiying Technology, one of the top ticketing services that is backed by local industry giants Tencent and Dalian Wanda Group, will participate in a panel discussion about China's powerful new online-to-offline tools, which the U.S. has yet to match.
Outside the convention hall, dig into Hong Kong's renowned Cantonese cuisine. "For dinner, I usually go to Sang Kee in Wanchai," says Roger Garcia, executive director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival. "It has some of the best Cantonese crispy fried chicken in town." If you want to splurge, Garcia suggests you head to Grand Cafe at the Grand Hyatt. "The char siu and egg rice is one of the best pricier interpretations of a Hong Kong standard," he says.