U.S. Pins Asia Hopes on Hong Kong Filmart

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The Hong Kong market sees a record number of Hollywood dealmakers looking to crack the world’s hottest film sector. “It’s essential to attend,” says one insider.

Hollywood-Asia links are in focus as a record 47 American companies and individuals have signed up to take part in Filmart this year.

Links between Hollywood and China are deepening: In the last week alone Huayi Bros. partnered with Robert Simonds’ STX Entertainment, while Lionsgate signed a $375 million film financing deal with Hunan TV. Hollywood companies hoping to move their projects in the region include The Asylum, IM Global, Electric Entertainment, Lakeshore International, MarVista Entertainment and XYZ Films, which is repping Kevin Smith’s forthcoming Yoga Hosers with Johnny Depp at Filmart.

Tannaz Anisi, president of 13 Films, is attending Filmart for the first time. “Hong Kong is definitely a primary way of accessing the China market given its prime location as one of the most bustling, cosmopolitan cities in the region,” she tells THR. She is in the territory with two titles announced at Berlin: Chronically Metropolitan with Shiloh Fernandez, Chris Noth, Mary-Louise Parker and Ashley Benson and Untot with Hayden Christensen.

“Filmart has grown in importance over the years as Asia continues to dominate and exert its force in the international marketplace. It’s now become essential for me to attend and establish a direct relationship with buyers there and understand their individual territory needs,” she says.

Filmart features a panel discussion organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and the Producers’ Guild of America called "Making Asian Films in America," featuring Elizabeth Dell, head of the PGA’s China Task Force, and Stu Levy, who chairs the Guild’s International Committee, Online Video Committee and the PGA ProShow.

The Digital Entertainment Summit will also use Transformers and Avatar as case studies in another panel, "T for Transmedia: Immersive Storyworld and A New Way of Audience Engagement."

While relations are expanding, IFTA, which puts on the annual American Film Market, has been vocal in calling for China to honor the terms of a 2012 trade deal and allow Hollywood films to compete on a transparent basis.

Katie Irwin, vp international at Fortitude International, says Filmart offers useful access to the China market, which last year chalked up a 36-percent rise to reach $4.76 billion in total box office. “There are many mainland Chinese distributors, production companies, financing entities, etc. who attend Filmart with an appetite to do business,” she says.

Filmart also offers valuable face time with Chinese companies that skipped the European Film Market in Berlin in February. The German event’s proximity to Chinese New Year means many Asians don’t attend. “As Asia has grown, so has the competition for Asian distributors' attention,” Irwin says. “But nothing builds a better bond than taking the time to get to know them, their company and their market.”

Kevin Hoiseth, director of sales at International Film Trust, says Filmart offers a look at Asian content that can travel. “Everybody is trying to diversify in a global way and several markets in Asia are thriving at the moment. Many European and Americans come here looking for Asian content, so we also always try to keep an open eye for local content with universal themes. Filmart is a hub for tons of new fresh material in the region,” he says.

While Chinese companies are increasingly reaching out directly, Filmart remains a good place to meet investors from mainland China. “It’s important to stay up to date on the marketplace with your partners. It’s also a great place to see what’s working and what’s not working in the region,” Hoiseth adds.

Karen Chu contributed to this report.