Backlot: CineAsia — Talking Shop in Hong Kong

Dadi Digital Cinema LTD.
CineAsia attendee Dadi Cinema is China’s first all-digital cinema chain.

This year’s CineAsia trade show promises to cover the world of Asian exhibition from top to bottom.

From special screenings of Hollywood tentpoles to closed-door meetings where international industry execs can compare notes, this year’s CineAsia trade show promises to cover the world of Asian exhibition from top to bottom. About 1,000 guests will gather over three days at the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Center to set their course for 2011, hawking their latest films, their newest multiplexes and everything from popcorn machines to ticketing-management software.

■ Disney’s Tron: Legacy in Imax 3D and Fox’s 127 Hours will open the event in Hong Kong on Dec. 7. Warner Bros. will screen Hereafter on Dec. 8. followed by an alternative programming screening of “Carmen,” a 3D rendering of a performance by the New York Metropolitan Opera.

■ With Asia’s 3D screen count expected to increase dramatically in the near future, it makes sense that Dadi Cinemas, China’s first all-digital chain, is making its first appearance at CineAsia to talk up plans to more than double its total number of screens by the end of 2011. Much of the buzz at this year’s event will surround digital and 3D deployment, which is driving growth across the region.

■ CineAsia also will bring back its invitation-only Executive Summit for frank, off-the-record discussions about the issues and challenges faced by the likes of such distributors as Sunder Kimatrai from 20th Century Fox, Roger Pollock from Paramount Pictures International, Frank Bruno from Sony Pictures Releasing and Jeff Forman from Walt Disney Studios. Sitting across the table are top-level company officers from the biggest exhibitors from 15 Asian countries, including Wanda in China and CGV in South Korea, and also John Fithian of the U.S. National Association of Theatre Owners.                

A NEW DIMENSION: Japan increases 3D output in an effort to reach young moviegoers

With a population that began to fall in 2005, the number of young moviegoers in Japan is declining sharply. Box-office revenue is up this year, but almost exclusively on the extra ¥200-¥300 ($2.40-$3.60) charged for 3D screenings.

Now the Japanese exhibition sector is rushing to embrace 3D and Imax screens as it attempts to leverage the premium ticket prices to help it boost revenue — even as demographic changes continue to shrink the younger audience targeted by most 3D releases.

With the total number of 3D screens about to hit 700, the domestic film industry is beginning to turn out 3D productions following the success of Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and Toy Story 3. The biggest Japanese live-action film so far this year is Umizaru: The Last Message, the third installment in a series about Navy rescue divers.

It was converted into 3D during postproduction, reportedly adding 50 percent to its budget. This now looks like a good investment given its ¥8 billion ($96 million) take after 10 weeks of release.

Meanwhile, Imax signed a deal this year with United Cinemas to outfit five more of its theaters with its digital 3D technology. And at the other end of the spectrum, 2D is suffering as art house theaters continue to struggle, and more have closed their doors this year, despite some receiving subsidies and grants. — Gavin J. Blair