Pearl River opts for high-tech camera

State-run studio invests in Arriflex D-21 digital camera

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HONG KONG -- In a sign that China's provincial film studios are pushing to produce better movies for a growing market in the face of increased competition from technically sophisticated international co-productions, Pearl River Films on Tuesday spent $340,000 at Filmart on a new Arriflex D-21 digital camera.

Liu Hongbing, president of Guangzhou-based Pearl River, a state-run studio that distributes mostly inside China, bought the cutting-edge camera from Hong Kong distributor Jebsen Industrial, a Danish trading firm with a 100-plus-year history in Hong Kong selling mostly German technical equipment into Asia.

"There's a huge increase in Chinese demand for the latest cameras and postproduction equipment," said June Fung, senior sales manager for Jebsen in Hong Kong, where the annual film industry trade fair was host to more than 100 Chinese film and television companies -- by far the largest contingent from any one country.

Zhou Tiedong, president of China Film Promotion International, the overseas sales arm of China's leading state-run film company, the China Film Group, said that Chinese films were having a tough time selling -- at home and overseas.

"We have 11 pictures in the market, but they don't stand much of a chance against the Hong Kong co-productions," Zhou said.

China's domestic boxoffice jumped 27% last year led by Chinese-language films, many of which were made with Hong Kong production partners.

Jessica Choy, Asia regional marketing manager for ARRI, maker of the lightweight D-21 model, said that the Munich-based company sells about 100 units a year worldwide and can maintain its price in the face of increased competition from cheaper digital video cameras.

"Certainly the trend is toward video and that does cut into business, but we can maintain our price because of the quality of the 35mm picture our equipment captures," Choy said. "Business in Asia, and China in particular, is on the rise."