CineAsia Shows How to Make Money From Asia's Aging Population

As Asian theaters move upscale to tap older, richer movie fans, they are counting on luxury to bring in younger viewers as well.

Exhibitors and distributors in Asia are going premium as they look to appeal to older film fans.

A panel at industry confab CineAsia on Wednesday looked at strategies for targeting aging populations in the region.

It's an issue of particular importance in Japan, which, with a median age of 46.5 years, has Asia's oldest population. The country has been a pioneer market for premium movie theaters, which leverage more spacious seating and higher-end screening technology into higher ticket prices. 

But Shinzo Kanno, president and CEO of Japan's Tokyu Recreation, says upscale theaters also can be a draw for younger viewers by offering a big-screen alternative to their smartphones. He cited the newly opened Imax theater at Expocity in Osaka — which features next-generation laser projection, an 18-meter-wide screen, 4DX motion chairs and multi-sensory environmental effects — as the kind of cinemagoing experience conducive to attracting young audience back to the multiplexes.

"Theaters should provide inspiring experience to the audience," says Kanno. "Young people are buying other entertainment options through the web and mobile. Cinemas need to provide technologically advance options."

Imax Asia Pacific managing director Don Savant agrees. "In order to capture the younger audience, cinemas need to create a premium atmosphere," he says.

Irving Chee, general manager of Malaysia's Golden Screen Cinemas, says despite targeting one of Asia's youngest populations — the median age in Malaysia is 27.9 years old and the 14-30 demographic accounts for 70 percent of the moviegoing population — he is also looking at the premium cinema model. 

"We are looking at the larger growing population who has matured, which has a growing affluence," says Chee. "That helps us to move gradually into a premium market, the VIP market."

Paramount Pictures International co-president Mark Viane says that the "renaissance of the high-quality cinemas in Asia" means the area is ahead of the curve when it comes to new movie technology that, he argues, will bring young audiences back to the cinema. "It's completely about the experience," says Viane. "You see in a country when infrastructure grows, box office grows with it."