Category Archives: Countries

Was CineAsia Right to Honour Indonesia’s Cinema 21?

IMG_20141211_153736

Should success at any price be celebrated? Because when it comes to cinema in Indonesia it is hard to escape accusations that ‘success’ is linked to unsavory business practices, tax evasion, rent seeking, crony capitalism and corporations tainted by links to the world’s most corrupt dictatorship.  At least according to most of the resources we could find during our research for this post.

Last week the CineAsia 2014 “Distributor of the Year” award was handed out to Indonesian film distribution company Cinema 21 Group. The award was introduced and handed over by Imax’s Andrew Cripps and received by the company’s Founder and Chairman Benny Suherman, as well as Harris Lasmana (Vice Chairman) and Suryo Suherman (President), and Sacheen Lasmana (Vice President).

The original press release published in FJI announced the award’s recipient with the headline ‘CineAsia to salute Indonesian distributor Cinema 21′ stated:

“Cinema 21’s progressive and amazing growth over the past couple of decades has made them the leading distributor and cinema exhibitor in Indonesia,” stated Robert Sunshine, co-managing director of CineAsia.

Cinema 21 Group started as a film distribution company in 1969, and since 1991 has been the distributor for all major Hollywood films in Indonesia. In 1977, the group expanded into the cinema exhibition business, making Cinema 21 the largest cinema chain in Indonesia.

So what’s wrong with celebrating success? When that ‘success’ is built on a nepotistic monopoly, links to a late genocidal dictator and involved an embezzler and fugitive wanted by Interpol, then the definition of “success” starts to become strained.

The timing of this award might also be seen as poor, coming as it does a year after the success of multi-award winning documentary “The Act of Killing” and just after Indonesia got its first president without ties to its brutal political past.  Our research into Indonesia’s motion picture exhibition took us back in time to Cinema 21′s early days.

Benny, Bambang and Sudwikatmono

Cinema 21 was indeed set up 1969, but the press release offers just the most cursory and airbrushed corporate history version of the Cinema 21 organisation.

The founders were Benny Suherman and his brother Bambang Sutrisno together with Sudwikatmono, the cousin of then President Suharto who had seized power in a military coup four years earlier. We wondered why Bambang or Sudwikatmono weren’t mentioned or honoured as the founders of Cinema 21?

Could it be because Bambang fled Indonesia and is now wanted by Interpol? Bambang Sutrisno embezzled Rp1.5 trillion [USD $128 million] from Bank Surya for which he was convicted of in absentia in 1999 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He fled to neighbouring Singapore where he is safely hiding with little fear of extradition.

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Swedish Subtitling of Swedish Films Causes Controversy

Turist Force Majeure

Also available in Swedish in Sweden

From today all Swedish film screened by Sweden’s largest cinema chain SF Bio will be subtitled in Swedish. Yes, all.

While foreign films have always been subtitled rather than dubbed in Sweden (except animation for children), the decision to introduce same-language subtitling for ALL screenings of ALL films has caused controversy in the country that prides itself on being progressive in film matters.

While the move is aimed to improve access for those with hearing problems, the decision has not been universally well received.

This is the message on the homepage of SF Bio:

News! As of December 19 SF Bio will also be showing all Swedish films with Swedish subtitles. This is to facilitate for all those who have difficulty understanding what is said in the films.

In Sweden there are over 1 million people who have some form of hearing loss. For these people, it has been difficult to go to watch Swedish films when they had trouble hearing the dialogue, and it has been confined to a few screenings with Swedish subtitles. Now we want to improve accessibility for all and will henceforth show all Swedish films with Swedish subtitles.

Movies with foreign dialogue is subtitled almost without exception in Swedish, but for those who have difficulty understanding the dialogue on Swedish films are also shown some films with Swedish dialogue also with Swedish subtitles. The range of subtitled movies for various reasons been limited, but a selection of films are produced with Swedish subtitles.

The switch to all-subtitling was supposed to have taken place on 5 December, but got postponed for two weeks for ‘logistic’ reasons, as explained in the Swedish newspaper for the deaf community.

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Number of New Cinemas in China is Up – But so is Box-office Fraud

China box office fraud

Last week saw the publication of two reports, both of which pointed to upward trends in the Chinese exhibition industry. But while the first pointed to a growth in the number of new screens, the second pointed to an increase in the instances of box office fraud.

report by Yi En Consulting has shown that as of 30 November, the total number of cinemas and multiplexes in China amounted to 5,540 with a total of 23,349 screens. This has led to a lot of end-of-year analysis and prognostication, coming as it does also close to the re-filing of the Wanda Cinemas IPO prospectus.

The number of new cinemas in Mainland China doubled in January-November 2014 to 957 compared to 476 in the same period last year. Beijing Daily looks at the key players (Wanda, Poly, Bono, etc.) and the dynamics shaping this market, where more players are looking to follow Wanda’s IPO lead.

Beijing Daily reporter learned that this year, in addition to already listed Wanda Cinema, the other cinema companies are also in preparation or wait listed. The first is the original plan and Wanda Cinema accept China Securities Regulatory Commission reviewed the same day in Guangzhou Jinyi Film and Television Media Co., Ltd., but the presence of a false prospectus of the eligibility conditions have been canceled. At the same time, the industry ranked second in the Shanghai Film Co., previously disclosed on April 18 prospectus, to be listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, while China Film Corp. also announced June 16 the prospectus, and most raised Uses of funds are investment projects cinema. In addition, the industry said, ranked fourth in the Guangdong market, the earth also has the listing.

The role of 3D and Imax/PLF (premium large format) films has also been significant in 2014.

According to public information, as of the end of October this year, the country released 52 million at the box office over the movie, 26 movie for 3D movie, half of the total box office revenue, 3D movies have occupied half of China’s film market. With such a huge market demand, the theater in order to attract customers have increased construction of 3D auditoriums. A film industry insider talking to Beijing Daily, told reporters: “Look at the Beijing movie theaters, an average ticket 2D movie ticket is 50 yuan, and a 3D movie ticket fares usually more than 100 yuan, the theater in order to the difference will be considered to improve the middle by large screen IMAX auditorium box office. ”  LINK

In the second article, turning its attention to the future, the focus is on the growth in the Tier Two and Tier Four cities.

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Sony Hackers Crossed A Line By Threatening Movie Theatres

The Interview Premiere

Though most of the entertainment industry and business world has been riveted to every breaking development of the Sony Pictures hack, we have purposely refrained from writing anything about it. That was until the perpetrators of the cybercrime threatened movie theatres showing an upcoming Sony film release with terrorist acts.

Yesterday morning, in what has become an almost daily ritual since news of the Sony hack first surfaced the group taking responsibility for the cyber attack, who call themselves the Guardians of Peace, sent an email which threatened:

“We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.”

The email went on to state that “The world will be full of fear” and referenced the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. It suggested, in no uncertain terms, that moviegoers should stay away from movie theatres screening “The Interview” and those that live near such cinemas should evacuate their homes. No specific reason was given, however since the hack against Sony Pictures first occurred it has been widely speculated that North Korea might be responsible for the attack in retaliation for “The Interview”, a film Sony had scheduled to open Christmas day. The comedy featuring Seth Rogen and James Franco centers around a plan to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

As a media outlet focused on the motion picture exhibition and distribution industries we were among those who received the hacker’s daily emails. Over the past few weeks we could have used this site to dissect the notes of countless DCI meetings from the past ten years or even highlight the terms of Sony’s various virtual print fee (VPF) agreements, details of which were contained in the staggered distribution of Sony’s data. However, there is a reason such information was meant to be kept confidential and its publication serves no greater public need. As well, the commercial matters being discussed within such documents is ancient history and any interest in them would be purely academic at best. That our silence came with the advantage of not publicizing the hackers or their crime was an added bonus.

But when the perpetrators took aim at the general public, threatening innocent people in a venue this particular media outlet considers a place of secular worship, they crossed a line that even the most malicious hackers know to avoid. Virtual thievery in the anonymity of cyberspace gives victims the false sense they are not in direct danger of physical harm. Threatening terrorist acts upon specific people or places in a world still smarting from an endless string of such events panics a public with feelings of immediate personal danger. That’s what makes such threats so affective and why the Sony hackers’ intimidation of movie theatres is far more damaging than any of the data they leaked.

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China Cinema Digest – Wednesday 17 December 2014

Imax China 200 screens

Imax has crossed 200 screens in Mainland China following the latest deal announced with Wanda Cinemas.

IMAX and Wanda Cinema, announced today that the company, along with Wanda Plaza is located in Hangzhou Gongshu Wanda IMAX theater opened, IMAX theater in China’s total reached 200. Wanda Cinema is one of the first partners to IMAX theaters in China. Currently, Wanda Cinema has become the company’s largest IMAX cinema partners in the international market, the commitment to build a total of 210 IMAX theaters.

In 2001, China’s first IMAX theater opened in Shanghai Science and Education, which marks the formal entry into the Chinese market IMAX Corporation. In 2004, IMAX company opened its first commercial IMAX theater in China. At present, China has become the world’s second largest IMAX market, a total of more than 400 IMAX commercial theaters, 179 of which have been opened. After all screens installed, IMAX theater network will cover commercial 122 cities in 30 provinces of China.  LINK

Luxe RealD
RealD announced at CineAsia a three-screen deal with Broadway Cinema for its Luxe PLF brand. This is the first deal in China and heats up the competition with Imax, China Giant Screen and own-brand PLF operations.

Global 3D and visual technology company RealD Inc. (NYSE: RLD) and leading Hong Kong and Chinese theatrical exhibitor Broadway Circuit announced today an agreement to install 3 “LUXE: A RealD Experience” (LUXE) auditoriums in Broadway’s cinema locations in mainland China. Introduced by RealD in 2013 as a new Premium Large Format (PLF) initiative, LUXE auditoriums will be installed at Broadway locations in Tianjing, Chengdu and Guangzhou, with the Tianjin location expected to open in May 2015. All 3 LUXE auditoriums opened at Broadway locations will feature RealD 3D projection and a RealD Precision White Screen.

“As a leading circuit in the rapidly growing and highly competitive China market, we have been looking for the best possible cinema setting for our moviegoers,” said Tessa Lau, CEO of Broadway Circuit. “We find LUXE a perfect match. We see it as an initiative to define our 2D and 3D premium offering. We are pleased to partner with RealD to jointly provide our audiences a unique, fully immersive experience.”  LINK

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China Cinema Digest – Thursday 4 December 2014

Wang Jianlin, founder of Dalian Wanda group, Credit CHINATOPIX, via Associated Press

Wang Jianlin, founder of Dalian Wanda group, Credit CHINATOPIX, via AP

Wanda Cinemas has been given the OK for an IPO in China in its second attempt. So much for all of our conspiracy theories that it would list elsewhere.

Wanda Cinema Line Co. Ltd., a movie theater company controlled by Chinese real estate mogul Wang Jianlin, has received approval for a share-offering in China in which it hopes to raise up to 2 billion yuan (US$325.6 million).

The listing approval was announced late Friday by China Securities Regulatory Commission. It comes as Wang, who Forbes magazine says is China’s fourth-richest man, prepares a huge initial public offering in Hong Kong for his real estate unit, Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties Co (IPO-DWC.SS).

The two listings, expected to be completed before the end of the year, would raise capital to accelerate Wang’s expansion in property and entertainment.  LINK

The NYT has a good thumbnail sketch of Wanda’s Chairman Wang Jianlin, who does not sit on the board of any of the soon-to-be-four listed companies that he controls.

Investors in Chinese companies are accustomed to founders having controlling stakes and wielding enormous power. But Mr. Wang has no official role in Wanda’s commercial property division, which is planning to list a minority stake in Hong Kong, or in the upcoming offering of its mainland Chinese cinema business. He is also absent from the American theater chain AMC Entertainment, which Wanda bought in 2012 and refloated a year later, and from its Hong Kong-listed hotel unit.

Wanda executives hold various board seats, including the chairman’s role at all four companies. Yet the tycoon’s lack of direct involvement is unusual.  LINK

Vista Group

Vista has completed a major roll-out with one of China’s largest cinema chains – in record time.

Cinema software company, Vista Entertainment Solutions has finished what they describe as one of the hardest projects the company has undertaken, rolling out 230 cinema sites across China in just six weeks.

Vista chief executive Murray Holdaway said the project, which involved total travel time of 2,376 hours had gone extremely smoothly and he was proud to have set a new “global benchmark”.

“To embark on a project of this scale within such a short time frame was something that as far as we know, has not been achieved before in our industry, and I’m delighted that our teams – Vista people assisted by Dadi people – have executed so brilliantly. They have re-set the global benchmark for the speed at which installation projects such as this can be carried out and we are proud of them,” Holdaway said.  LINK

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China Cinema Digest – Thursday 27 November 2014

Despicable Me 2 poster China

Universal has set up an office in Beijing, joining the other Hollywood majors to want a permanent foothold in the Chinese market, not least as it has also just opened the Universal Studios project just outside of Beijing.

Universal Pictures set up China office in Beijing this week. So far, there is Hollywood “six,” said the film company Disney, Warner, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, Sony and Universal have set up offices in mainland China. Together with the recent strength of the limelight large IMAX Corporation and DreamWorks, Legendary Pictures, etc., with the Chinese film market emerged as the world’s second largest film market, Hollywood hand of cooperation with China is more and more tightly grip.

A special trip to Beijing, President of Universal Pictures International release Duncan Clarke interview with reporters, said the establishment of the China office of Universal Pictures is an important page in the history of 102 years. And he was so feeling, partly because the Chinese film market has great potential, on the other hand is the North American market is nearing saturation, forcing Hollywood film overseas strategy implementation. Universal produced before the “Fast and Furious 6″ and “Despicable Me 2″ in China were made at the box office success of 413 million yuan and 324 million yuan, “Despicable Me 2″ is so popular in China small yellow people [sic! Presumably meaning Minions].  LINK

China ticket software

Sina Entertainment has a long and good article about automation replacing manual labour in Chinese cinemas. Ticketing is the first instance, but taking the Beijing Financial Street theater as its showcase, looks at how other areas such as concessions sales are also being automated. Interestingly it is not primarily labour costs that are the main motivator for this push. Worth reading in full.

It is reported that large quantities of multiplex cinemas are equipped with TMS and the effect is obvious. Information, such as TMS Beijing Chen Xing Technology in theaters such as the earth has been applied, Guangdong Branch Technology and Digital Film Development Corporation has been jointly developed by TMS’s Zhejiang Time Cinema theater uses, Film holy Bo’s TM S is also some domestic theater equipment.

Concerned that, TM S and ticketing, food gifts, broadcasting and other aspects of theater control system combined audience viewing experience can be improved, together constitute the automated, unmanned theater system package. TMS and ticketing system docking, co-managed theater operators can make theater “unattended” concept can be further realized.

Currently, TM S with automatic ticket sale items, recount, radio ads and other management systems to cooperate fully with the theater concept, although not perfect, but it aimed at “one-stop” theater automation management, no doubt so that everyone hopes for the future of cinema.  LINK

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How Smartphones Rule Cinema Ticketing in China

China mobile ticketing WeChat

The boom in China’s box office is mainly attributed to the growth in the number of modern multiplexes catering to a growing middle class. Yet an equally important role has been played by convenience of mobile ticketing, which enables flexibility, impulse buying and seat selection that is valued by the 80, 90 and 00 generations (i.e. born in those decades), who are the main drivers of China’s cinema growth.

Just how big this is and how fast the trend is growing was highlighted in an article by Chinese entertainment consulting firm Entgroup last month:

During this year’s summer profile, market share of online ticketing business accounted for more than 30%. As of the third quarter, the total box office mainland film market beyond 2013 full-year results of 21.7 billion, is expected to reach 30 billion annual box office revenue, and online ticketing service will reach 50%, micro-channel movie tickets will use its unique “ripple communication “vibration entire online ticketing market, and root out the 3-4 line market, in response to consolidation and mergers and acquisitions in the context of the total forest hot market making the message is “no one can integrate me, I do not accept integration. “

Financial website Tiger Sniffing Network (!) profiles the rapidly evolving market and interviews people from three of the leading Mainland mobile ticketing providers: Pull Movies founder Kai, a Cat Movie insiders (interviewed anonymously) and Micro-Channel Movie Tickets founder Lin Ning.

Mobile ticketing in China is considered an O2O (Online-to-Offline) business, which is described by Wikipedia (Chinese) in the following terms:

O2O (Online To Offline) mode, also known as the offline business model refers to the purchase of consumer online marketing online and offline operations driving under the wire. O2O through promotions, discounts, information, service book, etc., the next line of the message store pushed to Internet users, which will convert them to customers under their own line, which is particularly suitable for the goods and services necessary to store the consumer, such as dining, fitness, movies and shows, beauty salons, and department stores such as photography.

In understanding Chinese consumers, particularly 80/90/00, it is important to appreciate the mobile-first, as well as savvy bargain, discount and special deals mentality that underpins consumer behaviour.

Added to this there is a strong element of social networking, using WeChat (messaging), Weibo (Twitter-type ‘micro-blog’) and other social apps, whereby peer influences and decision guided purchasing decisions for both goods and services/experiences.

Mobile Enablers Create Win-Win Situation

The article begins by pointing out that mobile movie ticketing vendors are in a unique position in terms of being enablers, rather than just middle-men between cinemas and their potential audience.

Online seat selection is typical of the O2O industry, where they provide cash flow from online and complete the import line. A mobile phone app will be able to direct the attention of online marketing to generate transformed into the purchasing power of the line at the box office, it is probable that all the movie marketing companies currently can not match the “creativity.” They are closer to the audience than the cinema, so they have amazing box office pulling power to entice the film side more and more to cooperate with them.

There is thus a power that rests with mobile movie ticket companies that is stronger than in most other parts of the world. This change has not come about overnight and the article does a good job of providing a chronology of how ticketing software systems have evolved in China over the past two decades.

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Does Hangzhou Point to Bubble in China’s Cinema Market?

Broadway Hangzhou IMAX

Broadway Cinemas (IMAX) in Hangzhou

Talk about China overtaking United States’ cinema box office within a few years is predicated on the growth rate of the past couple of years continuing in an unbroken upward line. Yet too little attention has been paid to whether growth in multiplexes, screens and seats is outstripping demand for tickets.

Tier 2 City Focus

On-the-ground reports from markets outside of China’s half a dozen Tier 1 cities (Beijing, Shanghai, etc.) are starting to suggest that overbuild has resulted in blockbusters increasingly playing to empty auditoriums. Hangzhou is one such market.

According to Wikipedia, “Hangzhou is classified as a sub-provincial city and forms the core of the Hangzhou Metropolitan Area, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in China,” with Hangzhou prefecture having a registered population of 8.7 million inhabitants. It is considered a Tier 2 City, a group of around three dozen Mainland metropolitan areas increasingly targeted by investors, developers and multinationals in recent years. And as WSJ put it:

When it comes to China, the commonly used term “second-tier cities” is a misnomer, says Robert Lawrence Kuhn, an investment banker and author of How China’s Leaders Think. The so-called “second-tier” cities should actually be called “first-class opportunities,” given that these cities have been growth engines of the Chinese economy, boosted by huge amounts of investment, new infrastructure and an influx of new talent.

Multiplexes are at the forefront of these developments in Tier 2 cities, in some ways epitomising it as they combine entertainment, real estate and retail in one location.

Yet after several years of intensive development and investment, worrying signs of over-supply are starting to emerge, as indicated in the article quoted in Sina.com.cn from Qianjiang Evening News, headlined, “Hangzhou total of 49 cinemas, average of one theater added monthly.”

Hangzhou Cinemas: “Too Dense” – But Still Growing

The article points out that just in the last two months of this year will see the opening of a Jin Yi multiplex, a Wanda multiplex and a Shi Xiang Road multiplex – and this on top of an already saturated market.

The article then points out that in a five kilometer (3.5 miles) area there are five multiplexes, and that with 10 more multiplexes slated for 2015 it will be “too dense” and that next year many cinemas will “barely” get by.

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China Cinema Digest – Thursday 13 november 2014

China Film Group La Paking

Hollywood is looking to make more money out of China than the import-restricted and revenue split-skewed arrangements currently allow. So why not expand merchandising? Just check the Fast & Furious Experience in last week’s China Cinema Digest to appreciate the opportunities.

The head of China’s powerful state-run movie enterprise that supervises film imports wants to strengthen ties with Hollywood by selling merchandise in that country’s theaters.

La Peikang, chairman of China Film Group, has launched a new initiative aimed at spurring consumer product sales at theaters in China’s fast-growing exhibition sector.

To test the project, the group has already selected 1,500 top-ranked theaters in China that will have their own shops selling movie-themed merchandise, such as toys, clothing, games and DVDs, La said in an interview with The [LA] Times.  LINK

China youth

An editorial in The Workers Daily asks whether blockbusters pandering to “small town youth” is detrimental to Chinese cinema. In doing so it also highlights that “domestic movie box office increase is largely thanks to the gift of theater expansion, rather than to improvement in their quality.” The piece asks some very pertinent questions about demographic and geographical realities will undermine continuous cinema expansion as it goes beyond Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities in more rural markets. Worth reading in full.

In fact, it seems gratifying box office figures have confirmed the doubts. Foreign films in China last year, 41% of the box office take football, though not more than half, but to enter the mainland theaters are only 60 foreign films of last year, and the year of production of 638 feature films into theaters have 245. There are 60 foreign films at the box office over 27 million, and 245 domestic movie box office over billion were only 33.

Faced with such a market, a lot of film industry practitioners to second and third tier cities moviegoers that “small town youth” as the future of the film industry’s main viewing groups, because in the second and third tier cities cinema showing growth spurt. When in 2012, the national new screen 3832, 60% of the distribution in the second and third tier cities and county-level cities, four cinemas in 2013 reached a new three-digit number of theater tier cities, many in a two-tier cities years, it has gone through several screens from the single digits to double-digit upheaval.

Small city into the “theater of the times”, making the share of the domestic film industry has changed, northward four first-tier cities of Guangzhou-Shenzhen country’s total box office share has dropped from 32.8 percent in 2008 to 25.8 percent in 2012. Economic development so that “idle rich” and “small town youth” willing to purchase movies, videos and many second and third tier cities will also be used as pre-marketing focus.  LINK

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