Guangdong cinema market opens up to HK filmmakers
Hong Kong filmmakers can run up the curtain on larger audiences - and profits - under measures to open up the Cantonese film market in Guangdong province.
In a deal arranged under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, Cantonese-language films made in Hong Kong will nearly double their share of box-office takings across the border, from 13 per cent to 25 per cent, the Film Development Council announced yesterday.
In addition, a new subsidy of up to HK$250,000 per movie will be available to cover the costs of distribution and publicity in Guangdong, for Cantonese-language films from Hong Kong.
'This will give Hong Kong-made movies a lot of opportunities, as Guangdong has a population of over 100 million [counting migrant workers], which is a huge market,' said film council member Raymond Wong Pak-ming, a leading film producer and presenter.
He expects the new schemes to increase the output of Hong Kong films made with 100 per cent local content, in contrast to Hong Kong-mainland co-productions.
Film council vice-chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok, an entertainment mogul, said local moviemakers were well placed to take advantage of the measures to attract Guangdong audiences. The province's residents had been watching cross-border TV broadcasts, developing a taste for Hong Kong-produced films, he said.
'Guangdong is an exclusive market for Cantonese moviemakers,' said Lam. 'We share the same dialect and a similar cultural background, so the essence of Cantonese films is not lost in translation.'
A further financial boost is aimed at encouraging investment in films made by novice directors. The film council is raising its financing assistance to 40 per cent, up from 35 per cent, for films made by novice directors working with producers who have made at least two films. The programme, under the Film Development Fund scheme, applies to films with budgets of up to HK$10 million.
In another initiative, the film council began a survey this month to investigate the outlook for cinemas in the city. The number of theatre seats has fallen from over 120,000 in 1993 to about 40,000 last year, according to the Hong Kong Theatres Association.
The council plans further research in other countries and regions, starting in October, to see how they promote the use of cinemas and encourage the development of their movie industries. Early next year the film council will submit the findings of its research to the government for consideration in making policy.
Theatres have been shut down in recent years to make way for luxury-brand shops. In February, UA Cinemas' complex in Times Square, Causeway Bay, was closed down, leaving only three cinemas to serve Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, Tin Hau and North Point.
'The movie industry is a cultural industry for Hong Kong,' said Wong. 'If there are no theatres, the habit of watching movies in cinemas will simply die out.'
The length of time the last 1950s-era cinema, the Fan Ling Theatre in Luen Wo Hui, showed films before closing on January 7, 2010