Now showing at a cinema near you - if you're lucky

With movie-goers in Hong Kong vying for fewer seats than their Asian neighbours, one trade group is pushing for a theatre in every district

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 March, 2013, 4:17am

Struggling to get a ticket for the latest blockbuster? It could be because there are proportionately far fewer cinema seats here than there are in other cities in the region - such as Taipei, Singapore, Seoul, or Kuala Lumpur.

And that discrepancy has sparked renewed calls for a more even distribution of cinemas in the city - so that there is at least one in each district - from the Hong Kong Theatres Association.

The association made the call ahead of the Entertainment Expo, the annual industry event which opens today.

There are 5,708 cinema seats available for every one million Hongkongers, according to Trade Development Council data for 12 Asian cities.

In Singapore, that figure is 6,481 seats, and there are 7,750 seats per million people in Seoul.

However, the lack of theatres in Hong Kong is particularly apparent when compared with Bangkok, Taipei and Kuala Lumpur. In these cities, the number of cinema seats per million people doubles or even triples the number in Hong Kong.

But the city's cinema-goers are much better off than those in the mainland cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

"At least two out of 18 districts don't have cinemas," said Chui Hin-wai, vice-chairman of the Theatres Association. Those, he said, are New Territories North and Sham Shui Po - the city's poorest districts. And the number of cinemas has diminished by 60 per cent in 30 years, Chui said.

The association has made a submission on the issue to the Film Development Council, he said. It hoped that new policies such as providing for commercial land-use zoning could help ensure there was a cinema in every district - at more affordable rents.

But Film Development Council secretary general Wellington Fung Wing said that attendance figures were up despite the dwindling number of cinemas. And the box office was up 12 per cent last year, he said.

Fung added that the number of screens had stayed more or less the same over the years. "Heavily populated cities are not favourable for cinemas. So is it the rent or are there other factors putting the squeeze on cinemas?" Fung asked, adding that a study of the situation was under way and would conclude at the end of April.

Meanwhile, Filmart, one of the founding events of the expo, kicks off at the Convention and Exhibition Centre today, with a focus on the television industry. The Trade Development Council said that with more than 700 exhibitors and 6,000 visitors expected, the expo was the world's largest such event after Cannes.