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Guangdong as a micro-market for Cantonese cinema

Guangdong as a micro-market for Cantonese cinema

By Kevin Ma

Thu, 27 March 2014, 08:45 AM (HKT)

Distribution News

On Tuesday, a panel of industry professionals gathered at Hong Kong FilMart 香港國際影視展 for a seminar about the possibilities of extending the audience of smaller Hong Kong films to Guangdong Province.

Ten years ago, the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) allowed Hong Kong-produced films without Mainland investment to bypass the foreign film quota for distribution in China. Instead, Hong Kong companies have favoured co-producing films with China.

Under a recent agreement made between the Guangdong provincial government and the central government, Hong Kong films can go through the censorship process in Guangdong and be released there in their original Cantonese soundtrack. However, not many films have taken advantage of the new opportunity.

Wellington FUNG 馮永, secretary general of the Hong Kong Film Development Council 香港電影發展局 cited The Way We Dance 狂舞派 (2013) as an example of a film that had difficulties taking advantage of the China market. Though the youth dance film had three packed screenings in Guangdong last August as part of a special Hong Kong cinema showcase, the film was not approved to be released in the Mainland until Dec 2013 and could not find a theatrical release slot until 28 Feb 2014, six months after its China premiere.

Guangdong Film Industry Association 廣東省電影行業協會 chairman LIN Xiping 林西平 said, "Everyone wants to make a film that will be a hit nationwide, but not every film is produced with a large budget. If you made a film on just a RMB8 million budget (US$1.29 million), it's very difficult for a film of such small scale to find a nationwide audience."

The panelists said that Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan – all with residents that understand Cantonese – equate to an audience base of 100 million, making the region a potentially profitable market for small Hong Kong films.

Lin stated that the ability to handle the censorship process locally means that the Guangdong Film Industry Association can help expedite the approval process, though the group did not specify its methods.

However, some of the panelists remained cautious.

Lion Rock Pictures 獅子山影畫 CEO Charlie WONG 黃永峰 said though Hong Kong companies can receive up to 25% of a film's box office revenue in China under revenue-share basis, the final share is often reduced significantly due to taxes and commission.

Producer John CHONG 莊澄, who has extensive experience in co-production in China, also noted that though the China market has grown rapidly, it is also difficult to find a working pattern in it because the formula is constantly being re-written. As a result, it's hard to find commercial success in the China market even when a release can be secured.

Chong says, "Even with CEPA, the market remains very complex for us. It seems to change every three months."

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