Filmart Market Off to a Hot Start

Americans, Chinese reap the benefits of a large, close presence.

HONG KONG -- The 2011 edition of Hong Kong’s Filmart proves that there is strength in numbers.

Exhibitors from China and the U.S., who were each in their own dedicated space, are rejoicing in the increased foot traffic, concentrated buyer numbers and easy access.

“It’d be a lot of trouble if we come here by ourselves,” said China’s Magical Media rep Zhuo Yi. “The grouped pavilion saved us a lot of work.”

Occupants in adjacent collective national booths such as the American Pavilion, the China Film Promotion International Inc., and companies coming setting up space under trade organizations such as the Shanghai International Cultural Service & Trade Platform and the China Broadcast Television Assn. also were happy with the easier set up, which for repeat exhibitors means shorter prep time, simple move-in for first-timers, and much less hassle over administration.

In its first year, companies in the American Pavilion felt the benefit of their collective weight. “The pavilion is centrally located and the concentration means it’s easier for buyers,” said IM Global international sales senior vp Tatyana Joffe. “I’ve met more Chinese buyers here than I’ve met with before.

“Although it doesn’t change much business wise, the TDC did a great job,” Nu Image president Christian Mercuri said. “The set up is easier, the market is getting bigger and bigger. We have the most successful market in Hong Kong this year.”

“Everyone loves it,” said Jonathan Wolf, executive vp of the Independent Film & Television Alliance, which organized the American Pavilion. “Filmart is the most efficient market of all of them. It’s inexpensive, it’s four days, it’s great how it’s positioned on the calendar. It’s really good value.”

“There is a atmosphere of celebration at Filmart this year,” said Mei Ah managing director Patrick Tong. “So many people are here, I’ve met some long lost friends,” chuckled director Joe Cheung at the Hong Kong Film Directors’ Guild booth.

But all is not as it seems beyond the busy aisles. Hong Kong exhibitors bemoan a dropping number of buyers at their side of Hall 1. A lack of big project announcements for some companies is doubled with a growing trend of Southeast Asian buyers coming on pre-market trip to close deals that the market is losing the benefit for them.  

“Buyers are also wiser in squeezing all their meetings in the first two days,” said a Hong Kong exhibitor. “Many dropped in before their scheduled meetings, so that they can have a more flexible schedule later in the market.”  

And with all the hustle and bustle, there were deals being done.

Chaw,  Korean director Shin Jeong-won’s creature film, was sold to Japan’s King Records who also acquired Bedeviled, which will open in Japanese theaters on 26th, according a Seoul-based sales company Finecut.

Another Japanese distributor Fine Films also bought a hit Korean romantic drama Cyrano Agency.

For major Korean buyers the first two days of the market had been a promising start.

“Hong Kong is a great bridge market to cover for Asian buyers who don’t come all the way to EFM or other markets,” says Kini Kim, the head of sales and distribution at CJ Entertainment. “There seems to be more traffic this year and we’ve had a fair number of meetings so far.”

Overall this year’s market seems stable and unaffected by the earthquake in Japan, which was a major concern for the festival organizer. Only two out of 19 Japanese film companies cancelled their trip to the market, according to UniJapan.  

“Businesswise it’s been good,” says Tadayuki Okubo, the manager of international sales at Toei Company. “The buyers are more focused and we’re close to closing some deals by tomorrow.”

R K Duggal who represents Indian Film Exporters Assn. also says the market has been a good platform for Bollywood films especially for buyers from China and Hong Kong and Japan.

“It’s a great place to explore our content and meet potential buyers,” said Duggal, whose organization to promote Indian films and television programs abroad is at Filmart for the first time. “So far we’ve had about 100 meetings and we’ve got about 30 more tomorrow.”

This year’s market, organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, opened with a record of nearly 600 exhibitors. More than 5,200 visitors participated, including 20 American companies, a first-time pavilion from Cambodia and a pan-European pavilion.

In the Asia Film Financing Forum, a matchmaking forum for Asian producers and directors, which started Monday, 28 projects were pitched to co-producers, financiers and distributors for co-production opportunities. Last year, 900 guests from 34 regions attended the forum.