CineAsia Opens with Focus on Anti-Piracy, 3D Technology

China and the Philippines are driving growth and innovation in the region.

HONG KONG – CineAsia 2011 opened Tuesday with the success story of the exhibition industry in the Philippines, which leads Southeast Asian markets with its anti-piracy legislation and entertainment tax reduction. 

The major growth market in the region is of course China, estimated to be increasing by three screens per day.  The trade show captured the attention of Chinese exhibitors, with 20 percent of all delegates from China this year, according to Robert Sunshine, managing director of CineAsia. The number of participants this year has also increased 20 percent, which made the organizer consider moving into the bigger adjacent hall at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center for next year.

CineAsia raised its curtain with a presentation from the International Cinema Technology Assoc., on the latest innovations in 3D and projection technology. But the real draw on the first day of the trade show was new anti-piracy developments and ways to increase revenue for exhibitors, specifically screening alternative content -- such as live sporting or concert events -- to attract crowds that do not often go to the cinema.

International film exhibition is a $40 billion per year business, but loses $3 to 5 billion every year due to piracy, said Brian Dunn, CEO of anti-camcording tech company PirateEye, which develop and manufacture a plug and play device that scan the venues for lenses of video or photographic recorder during the course of a film. The industry faces a new challenge by what Dunn called “social piracy” with the widespread usage of social media.  “An ordinary person can do as much damage to a film by uploading contents to his or her Facebook page,” Dunn attested, “for a $150 million blockbuster which costs another 40 million to market, $10 to 20 million of the box office will be lost due to the piracy.  Social pirates are a greater risk especially at premieres. Somebody might be excited at being a premiere, and put it on Facebook.”

But for Asian markets in general, Thailand led camcording piracy in theatres this year with 35 reported incidents, with India coming in second with 33 incidents, said MPA Asia Pacific Content Protection – Internet Operations Manager Ryan Murray. The MPA’s priorities in the region are to enlist commitment from the local industry, to install preventive measures, to lobby for anti-camcording legislation, and to take down criminal syndicates behind piracy.

Australian Federation Against Piracy Theft Director of Digital Affairs Aaron Herps recounted cases of investigations and arrests in Australia, where a 30-year-old “person of interest” raised suspicions by going to drive-in screenings of one too many children’s movies, including watching the animated film Rio twice in one day. Suspected of being an audio capper, he was also found in possession of 20 grams of heroin when searched and was duly arrested.

In this respect, the Philippines had been a triumph in growing its exhibition business, where it came down from being third in cases of piracy investigation in the region in 2010, to finding only one incident in 2011, and the number of digital cinemas rose from 100 in 2010 to 382 in 2012. The country is one of the most connected in the world – with a 99 million population, 90 million possess a mobile phone, and a billion text messages were sent everyday.  “So it makes it easier to notify audience what’s showing,” said the Philippines’ WATC/SM Senior VP Edgar Tejerero.  

More than half of the films released in the country were foreign films, and three of the top five films in 2011 were from Hollywood studios. Rapid digitalization is necessary, “the answer is simple, because we’re late,” Tejerero said, but it also gives more use of screens in showing alternative contents, and to boost the renaissance of theatre ads, where it counts as 1% of the revenue and is expected to increase to 5% after full screen digitalization.

Using digital cinemas for live events, such as concerts, sports events, opera and ballet, and even B2B corporate events or gaming, is the way to go forward, “giving more diverse contents for the cinema,” said Joseph Piexoto, President of Worldwide Cinema of RealD, which produced with the Royal Opera House the pre-recorded Madam Butterfly 3D.