Extravagant events 'not enough' to keep the Hong Kong showbiz industry's star shining

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 5:11am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 5:39am

A decade of government extravagance in promoting show business has done little to sustain the local entertainment scene, which may benefit more from long-term policies instead, industry veterans say.

Insiders point to the languishing of local television and a lack of movie screening avenues, which they say will create big problems for cultivating talent and audiences in the long run.

The dim outlook contrasted sharply with the annual extravaganza that was the Entertainment Expo, said Tenky Tin Kai-man, director of the Hong Kong Film Awards Association, at a pre-launch of the expo yesterday.

The government-funded initiative, led by the Trade Development Council, brings together nine show business events in one month and will celebrate its 10th anniversary in March.

"These glamorous events are great shows, but Hong Kong needs to review the policies and strategies to keep the industry growing," Tin said yesterday.

The Entertainment Expo has brought significant growth to certain events, such as Filmart, now the world's second-largest film trade fair after Cannes.

Besides Filmart, the expo also showcases the fundraising Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum, the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the Hong Kong Film Awards.

Raymond Yip, assistant executive director of the council, said 760 companies from nearly 30 countries would take part in Filmart this year.

But behind the glamour lay a worrying picture.

Takings at the Hong Kong box office rose just 4.2 per cent last year to HK$1.625 billion, as the number of local films released fell to 42 from 52 in 2012.

"In reality, there is a lack of exhibition channels," Tin said.

The number of cinemas has fallen 60 per cent over the past 30 years, according to the Theatres Association. "Cinemas can't survive because of the high rents," said Tin.

"Are there ways to build more cinemas by land zoning? If people can't watch films, how can we accommodate young talent?"

The weak television industry was another factor, he said. With the most prominent artists now in their 50s, there was a talent vacuum as the training they used to undergo at television stations was no longer available to those in their 20s and 30s, he said.

Entertainment Expo will kick off on March 24.