CineAsia Wraps with 'Decade' Awards for Zhang Ziyi, Feng Xiaogang

Top China Box Office Draws Look to Record Year

HONG KONG – Eleven years after she got the CineAsia Star of Tomorrow award, actress Zhang Ziyi, the 2010 CineAsia Actress of the Decade told guests of the annual regional distributors and exhibitors convention on Thursday how proud she was to meet the men and women who have helped illuminate her work.

“In 1999, CineAsia’s award was the greatest encouragement I could have. Now, memories are flashing before my eyes,” said the star best known outside China for her starring role in Ang Lee’s 2000 hit Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. “Much has changed, but my passion and curiosity for the humanity of the characters I play remains.”

Clad in a form-fitting black and red dress with her raven hair drawn back and up, Zhang addressed a roomful of admirers from a less sexy part of the movie business, the buyers and sellers of projectors and silver screens, popcorn machines and movie seats: “I want to thank everyone in the room as you all play a very important part in bringing movies out to the world.”

The room applauded Zhang, just as it did a clip of her forthcoming, and tentatively titled film Life is a Miracle, director Gu Changwei’s story of a Chinese village stricken with AIDS.

Zhang closed the final night banquet and awards ceremony of the 16th edition of CineAsia, a trade show owned by Prometheus Global Media, owner-publisher of The Hollywood Reporter.

The show drew more than 1,000 guests from the Hollywood studios, global equipment makers and regional distributors and theater chains to the Hong Kong Trade and Convention Center for three days of business driven mostly by talk of China’s booming box office, up 86% in the first half of this year alone.

Much of that success was tied to Aftershock, by director Feng Xiaogang, whose short and sweet acceptance of the Filmmaker of the Decade award -- presented to him by longtime producer Peter Lam of Hong Kong’s Media Asia -- had the house laughing out loud.

Feng, who removed his trademark black baseball cap, dived out of his comfort zone to address the international audience in English, saying simply and with an uncharacteristically big smile: “Enjoying shooting films. Thank you, my boss. Continue give money. Thank you. Goodbye.”

Feng has plenty to be happy about. Aftershock has grossed more than 660 million yuan ($100 million) this year in China, making it the country’s most successful homemade film of all time.

Part of Feng’s success and that of the Hollywood studios, whose products, such as Avatar (which grossed $207 million in China this year) definitely spilled into the room and onto the balance sheets of companies such as Harkness, one of the biggest manufacturers of movie theater screens in the United States.

“We can’t meet our Chinese orders demand is so high,” Harkness Beijing representative Allan Xing told The Hollywood Reporter at the end of the wine-fuelled gala dinner. “We’re increasing the size of our Beijing factory and will move up from cheap white matte screens to silver screens next year.”

Harkness sold 600 professional movie screens in China in 2010, Xing said, a number that now makes up more than half the market share among those Chinese theaters using top-of-the line equipment. The country’s current 6,000 screens are expected to double in number with government- and real estate developer support in the next few years. Yet many of those theaters can’t yet afford the 40,000-yuan investment for a professional screen, Xing said. “The good news is that they’ll put up a cheap screen and replace it in a year when the box office gets even bigger.”

CineAsia  will return to Hong Kong in 2011 on Dec. 5, 6 and 7, managing director Robert Sunshine said.