SE Asia exhibition is set to boom
By Patrick Frater
Tue, 06 December 2011, 16:37 PM (HKT)
South East Asian film exhibition was treated to a warts-and-all examination that pointed to the region as a continuing growth hotspot, despite numerous obstacles.
The CineAsia convention in Hong Kong heard from market analyst Rance Pow that China, Malaysia and Taiwan were this year expected to deliver box office growth of close to 25%.
Kenny WONG, CEO of Malaysian exhibition group TGV Cinemas Sdn Bhd, detailed a shopping list of problems potentially holding up growth of the Malaysia's theatrical market. These included regulatory intrusion and tax hurdles; social issues such as a recently introduced minimum wage; and technology problems that increase competition from other media.
Despite that, Wong forecast that Malaysian exhibitors will add some 200 screens next year and that 2012 will be the biggest ever year of exhibition growth. His own company expects to open theatres in six malls next year, while rival Golden Screen Cinemas Sdn Bhd will open seven.
Wong said that screen expansion is outstripping GDP growth, but that local films are propelling box office growth as film-makers expand into new genres. Box office for local films is expected to climb from RM76 million ($24.2 million) last year to RM90 million ($28.7 million) in 2011.
"We need to increase the attractiveness of cinema in order to earn a greater share of people's wallets," he said.
Ed TEJERERO, senior VP of WATC/SM Cinema, described The Philippines as "a challenging, opportunity filled market." He explained that his company had been late to the digital party, but was intent on catching up fast. Celluloid to digital conversions will be further facilitated by the introduction of a virtual print fee system from 2012.
He also credited the government with helping the sector by cutting the 'entertainment tax' levied on cinema tickets from 30% to 10%. Tejerero said that since camcording had been criminalised instances of piracy had also come down.
A big issue for theatre operators in the $150 million territory is expanding the business in areas beyond the Metro Manila region, which generates two third of box office revenues ($99 million) from less than 40% of the country's 690 screens. Local films have been especially successful in the last year, gaining ground on Hollywood imports and accounting for 32% of box office from 20% of film releases.
Brian HALL, president and CEO of MegaStar Cineplex, said that box office in Vietnam had grown five-fold in the past four years, from some $5.8 million in 2008 to an anticipated $35 million in the current year. He also forecast that by 2016 the market will probably triple again, hitting $110 million in gross revenue terms. Screen numbers, he forecast, will hit 350 compared with the 100 today which regularly show first-run movies.
Hall said that growth at current rates mean that box office records are being broken regularly and reported that nine of the top ten all time films were released in 2011. (The exception was 2009's Avatar (2009).)
He suggested that the biggest issue facing cinema builders is finding quality locations at economically viable prices. Commercial rents per square metre are higher than Seoul, Los Angeles and Chicago, though are lower than other Asian hotspots including Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Singapore chain Golden Village confirmed that it will open its tenth complex, the GV Katong, in East Singapore, on 22 Dec. The highly stylised cinema fills a void in an area that has been without screens for 20 years.
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