Hong Kong’s film industry is worth backing

Despite global competition, the cultural and creative industries contribute about 5 per cent to the city’s economy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 March, 2017, 12:57am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 March, 2017, 12:57am

Hong Kong has a well-deserved reputation in world cinema. Although we have long lost the title as the third-largest producer, after Hollywood and Bollywood, we remain one of the biggest film exporters on Earth. But like their overseas counterparts, the local industry is also struggling to attract cinema goers in an increasingly competitive world of entertainment.

The numbers speak for themselves. Currently, there are only some 36,500 seats in 48 cinemas across 17 of the 18 city districts, down from 121,800 seats in 119 cinemas in the early 1990s. Locally produced films are no longer as popular as they used to be. If the box office takings in 2015 are any reference, the top nine movies were all foreign. The most popular local production, Little Big Master, came 10th with HK$46 million in revenue, while Hollywood blockbuster, Avengers : Age of Ultron, topped the ranking with HK$133 million.

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Much has been said about the reasons for the decline, such as changing entertainment preferences and a lack of creativity and originality in productions. A dearth of support from the government is also to blame. It was not until 2007 that the government created the Film Development Council, followed by the establishment of the Create HK office, to better support the development and promotion of creative industries. While an array of initiatives has since been provided, feedback has been mixed.

The latest move is to require the developers of two new commercial sites to build cinemas for use for at least seven years. Well intentioned as it is, the policy raises questions about business freedom and flexibility. After all, it will take more than just hardware to attract cinema goers. Unless the industry can continue to impress audiences with good productions, the new cinemas risk becoming white elephants.

If there is anything that shows Hong Kong’s soft power, it is likely to be our films. Our actors and actresses are no strangers to overseas audiences and often win international acclaim.

Economically, the value added of cultural and creative industries stands at about HK$110 billion, representing 5 per cent of our GDP. A flourishing film industry is in the city’s best interest.