China grosses move up UIP ladder


BEIJING -- China has become the third highest-grossing Asian territory at the boxoffice for United International Pictures this year, the territory's highest-ever ranking for the distributor, company vp of Asian sales and marketing Kurt Reider said Tuesday at CineAsia.

Rieder, named the annual trade show's Exhibitor of the Year, said hard work by his local managers had paid off in China in 2006, where, despite widespread piracy, UIP had grossed $29 million through November, led by "Mission: Impossible III."

UIP grossed $301 million during the period across the whole of Asia, exclusive of Australia and New Zealand, Rieder said on the opening day of the 14-year-old CineAsia confab.

"We're not popping champagne corks in China, but we are pleased with our progress here, especially since we had only one blockbuster," said Rieder, who allowed that the net revenue from China will see the country's rankings fall on UIP's list of top-grossing Asian territories.

Because of Chinese government rules and longstanding deals with state-run China Film Group Corp., overseas exhibitors share only a small fraction of the boxoffice gross of the 20 imported films allowed into in China each year on a revenue-sharing basis -- typically about 13% of each film's take.

For UIP, China was not the only growth territory this year. Rieder stuck revenue sharing deals with Cinepax in Pakistan and Megastar in Vietnam which bought in another $575,000 and $565,000, respectively, he said.

"This may sound like peanuts, but what we are getting better at is moving an eclectic bunch of movies into territories where there was nothing before but flat-fee importing," Rieder said.

After negotiations lasting six months in each new territory, Rieder said UIP started off releasing "King Kong," "M: I?3," and "Over the Hedge," Rieder said, adding that he had advised Cinepax, which plans to open its first theater next year in Islamabad, first to get into distribution itself to learn the business. "What we are looking to these companies for is transparency," Rieder said.

Clean, modern multiplexes will help grow the boxoffice in Pakistan, Rieder says. Without them, he said, Muslim women and children only will go to the movies when they can arrange a group screening with chaperones.

"There's so little mass entertainment there that these multiplexes will really fill a void," Rieder said.

Looking ahead, Rider said UIP had high hopes pinned on the Asian release in March of "Dreamgirls," starring Jaime Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Beyonce Knowles.