CineAsia 2012: Content Remains Crucial in Unlocking Asian Markets, Industry Figures Say

Technological advances in film exhibition would work only in tandem with content local audiences can identify with, say distributors and theater operators at the region’s annual industry gathering.

HONG KONG – Local content which audiences could identify with remains the key in drawing Asian audiences into cinemas, according to industry figures present at a panel discussion which launches the latest edition of CineAsia in Hong Kong today.

Speaking at a seminar titled “What’s Going On?” presented by the International Cinema Technology Association, exhibitors and content providers agree that the while technological advances have caught the eyes of the international film industry in recent years, what unspools on screens will be crucial in attracting spectators into theaters.

According to Twentieth Century Fox International’s senior vice-president (Asia-Pacific) Sunder Kimatrai, technology is merely “the fuel to enable to content to get to the consumers”. “Local content is the key driver in engaging audiences,” he said.

Irving Chee, general manager of Malaysia’s Golden Screen Cinemas chain, agreed, adding audiences are now more aware of what kind of movies they are watching and whether they would want to pay for the extra surcharge levied on 3D versions of films – which could sometimes amount to about 40 to 50 percent, he said.

Numbers from these developing markets have suggested consumers to be savvier than just embracing Hollywood blockbusters wholesale, according to Brian Hall, president and CEO of Vietnam’s Megastar Media.

Citing figures from the country – in which the first cineplex was built, by Megastar, only a decade ago – Hall said that the percentage of Vietnamese films in the local box office has stood firm at 20 per cent during the past five years, despite a tenfold increase in the revenue generated by of ticket sales in the country.

“We need to be simple – content is the key to unlock the man,” said Hall, who will be accepting CineAsia’s DLP Cinema Marketing Achievement Award on behalf of his company at the event’s awards luncheon on Dec. 13. “We have to know which consumer wants to participate in each room.”

Meanwhile, in a separate seminar, the Motion Picture Association’s content protection team announced findings identifying the presence of criminal syndicates behind a surge in India of camcorder-derived pirated films circulating as discs and on websites.

Ryan Murray, the association’s director of content protection in the Asia-Pacific region, said the comparison of audio and video watermarks present on Indian pirated copies of films reveal the illicit theater recordings as being made mostly in cinemas around the cities of Ghaziabad, Indore and Ahmedabad – proof that the copyright-infringement acts were conducted by organized bands rather than random individuals.

In November, Murray’s team has arrived at 66 forensic matches of pirated films circulating internationally to prints shown in Indian cinemas, doubling the number from the same time last year. Fourteen matches were traced to screenings in Chinese theaters, compared to nine last year.

The two seminars, plus a third one about development of concessions in cinemas, kicked off this year’s CineAsia, which takes place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center from Dec. 11 to 13.

The first day of the event also featured product presentations from Twentieth Century Fox International and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International, as well as screenings of Hitchcock and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; on the second day, seminars about alternative content in cinemas, the use of lasers in exhibition and digital distribution in Asia will take place before further presentations from Universal, Paramount and Sony Pictures.

On Dec. 13, awards will be handed out to MegaStar Cinemas, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International (for the success of The Avengers in the Asia-Pacific box office), Hong Kong-born producer and theater operator Ng See-yuen (with an Award of Achievement for Services to the Motion Picture Industry), Tropfest founder John Polson (the Asia-Pacific Copyright Educator Award), Wanda Cinema Circuit (the purchaser of the AMC cinema chain, which will be presented with the Exhibitor of the Year award), United International Pictures SE Asia executive director Han Seng Lim (Disttributor of the Year) and Korean actor Lee Byung-hyun (Star of the Year).