Filmart: A Market-by-Market Look at Asian Film

Martin Haake

Screen horror sparks debate in Thailand, "The Kids" are not all right in Singapore, and Japan weathers tragedy.

INDIA: Hollywood joins forces with Bollywood
The courtship between Hollywood and Bollywood continues with Killing Fields director Roland Joffe’s Singularity. Currently shooting in India, the time-travel epic features Bollywood star Bipasha Basu and Josh Hartnett as star-crossed lovers whose saga spans 18th century colonial India to the present. If rumors are to be believed, an even more high-profile connection between the film sectors is in the works: There is talk that Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan will join Leonardo DiCaprio in writer-director Paul Schrader’s upcoming drama Xtreme City. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Khan could also co-produce the film via his Red Chillies banner with Martin Scorsese.

CHINA: Imax and 3D thrive despite ticket prices
Imagine 1930s America, when swaths of the population saw their first movie. Well, in 2011 China, it’s back to the future as developers rush to engage the newly confident middle class of roughly 200 million potential filmgoers, currently underserved by a mere 6,200 screens. China’s box office soared 64 percent in 2010 to $1.5 billion, thanks partly to premium tickets for large-format and 3D films made popular by Avatar. This is despite the fact that ticket prices for these releases can often cost as much as 180 yuan ($27). Now, giant-screen exhibitor Imax plans four new digital theaters along China’s wealthy eastern seaboard in hope of capitalizing on China’s rapid expansion.

THAILAND: Thai horror release pushes the envelope
Building on the thai film industry’s reputation for over-the-top horror fare, March will see the release of an “abortion revenge drama” in Thailand. Called 2002 The Unborn Child, the story is about aborted fetuses coming back and wreaking revenge on a middle-class Thai family. The film is certain to spark controversy because abortion remains illegal in Thailand, despite a thriving back-street industry. The issue recently generated headlines when the remains of some 2,000 aborted fetuses were discovered on the grounds of a temple. Still, Thailand’s young moviegoers love the horror genre, so the controversy will likely help box office.

SOUTH KOREA: Popular actor’s military service draws a crowd
More than 500 fans from Japan, Hong Kong and China lined up at a South Korea Marine Corps training camp in the South Korean port city of Pohang last week to bid farewell to Korean actor Hyun Bin, who begins his 21-month military service. The 29-year-old actor, who recently starred in the English-language release Late Autumn with Chinese actress Tang Wei, volunteered to join the Marines last year shortly after a South Korean island was bombed by North Korean artillery shells, killing soldiers and civilians. Bin’s military service comes amid charges that other young actors are dodging the draft.

SINGAPORE: Authorities limit screenings of The Kids Are All Right
Singapore’s film censors have severely restricted the showing of Lisa Cholodenko’s family dramedy The Kids Are All Right. The Board of Film Censors has rated the film R21, usually reserved for explicit films, thereby restricting it to those over 21. More unusual is the fact that it will also allow only one print of the film into the republic. “In this instance, MDA considered the higher level of viewer interest in the film following its Oscar nomination and allowed it to be shown on a one-print condition,” said Amy Chua, director of media content and standards at Singapore’s Media Development Authority in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. She added that this was not to deny access to the film but to limit its reach in order to minimize its impact because it went beyond Singapore’s “community values.”

HONG KONG: Local stars surprise moviegoers at the multiplex
Hong Kong stars are taking interactive marketing to a whole new level. Filmmakers and their casts are showing up at cinemas to show gratitude in person for audience support. Brandishing posters and other souvenirs, comedian Jim Chim and model-turned-actress Chrissie Chow, stars of the comedy Men Suddenly in Love, put on a show of appreciation at recent sold-out screenings, as did cast members of the art house romance Lover’s Discourse. The marketing gimmick is even being put to use by the upcoming soft-core release 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy, which promises a meet-and-greet with the film’s main siren to boost ticket sales. The stunt reportedly has had a good effect on advance ticketing.

JAPAN: Quake disrupts Aftershock charity screening in Tokyo
The huge earthquake that struck Japan on March 11 collapsed the roof of the aging Kudan Hall in Tokyo, where a special screening of Aftershock, Chinese director Feng Xiaogang’s chronicle of the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, was due to take place, killing one and injuring many more. Distributor Shochiku had planned to show the movie in the aftermath of the quake in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Feb. 22, and donate profits from its premieres to victims. Following the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s northeast coast, the film’s release looks certain to be canceled.