Category Archives: Countries

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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Questions Raised About Wanda Cinema’s IPO

Wang Jianglin, chairman and founder of Dalian Wanda Group

Sina Finance carries a long and excellent analysis of Wanda Cinema’s re-submitted IPO document, written by Enterprise Observer newspaper reporter Zhu Lin. The article raises several pertinent question about the IPO of the world’ largest cinema chain, which also controls AMC in the US.

The article is in Chinese, but is worth reading in full in the Google translation (or read the original here) to better understand this important listing and company.

There is too much covered in the article to regurgitate everything in this piece, but a few interesting nuggets are worth highlighting, not least the family connections underpinning the ownership and control of the company, as well as future challenges that it is likely to face.

The initial application for listing on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in July this year was refused on account of “insufficient information” in the IPO prospectus document. Wanda has thus had to submit additional information, some of which makes for very interesting reading.

According to the document the Wang family, headed by Wang Jianlin, controls 71.4% of Wanda Cinema’s total equity, meaning that they exercise complete control over the company, and will continue to do so even after the IPO of no more than 60 million shares.

The article provides a breakdown of the family stake(s):

Prospectus shows Wanda Wanda Cinema controlling shareholder investment, holding 68% stake in Wanda Cinema. Wang Jianlin, Hop Hing Investment Limited by Dalian Wanda Group and the Cultural Industry Group Holdings Wanda indirect investment, the actual controller Wanda cinema. And Wang Jianlin, Wanda Cinema son Wang Sicong currently holds 500 million shares, accounting for 1% of the total share capital, Wang Jianzhong Wang Jianlin brother, Wang can, WANG Jian-chun and ??? each hold 0.6% stake in Wanda Cinema.

Wang’s son Wang Sicong four brothers plus five people, accounting for 3.4% of total share capital before the issue Wanda Cinema, plus the 68% stake controlled by Wang Jianlin, Wang’s family holding up to 71.4%, the realization of Wanda Cinema’s absolute control.

It is clear that the listing will thus make Wang Jianlin even more of a billionaire while also making his close family very wealthy.

At an IPO price of 33.33 yuan per share, the market value of Wanda Cinema would be around 18.7 billion yuan (USD 3 billion), giving the Wang Jianlin family a stake of 13.35 billion yuan (USD $2.18 billion) with Wang’s four brothers earning around a billion yuan each  (USD $160 million). So the IPO is a profitable family affair.

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China Cinema Digest – Wednesday 5 November 20

Transformers China

Not a month seems to go by without China breaking a new box office record. The Mainland box office is now on course to hit USD $5 billion (30 billion yuan) by the end of this year according to the Chinese Film Producer’s Association (CFPA).

The CFPA’s vice president Wang Fenglin told an film industry expo in Wuhan that China’s box office had reached $3.59 billion (22 billion yuan) for the January-to-September period, topping the $3.55 billion (21.8 billion) for the same period last year.

Wang also said that domestic films accounted for 51.4 percent of the market while imported films were 48.6 percent and that a total of 230 films were shown in mainstream cinemas in the first nine months of 2014.

Although the CFPA touted the $4.9 billion figure, the $5 billion mark looks within reach. A slew of big releases are set to hit theaters in the last two months of the year, and key moviegoing dates such as Singles’ Day (Nov. 11) and Christmas are still to come.  LINK

Danzish cinema Chonqing

Danzish Cinema – rated No. 1 on Chongqing

The Chinese central government is subsidising the building of cinemas in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities as a means of improving and speeding up urbanisation, though this can have the unintended consequence of inflating the exhibition bubble if the market cannot sustain these cinemas.

National Film Development Office recently allocated special funds for the cause of the second batch of county-level city theater construction subsidies totaling 14.2 million yuan [USD $2.3 million] 2012-13 . Reporters today (28) days from the Chongqing Municipal Culture Committee was informed that this subsidized a total of 25 theaters, including 11 in 2012 did not apply for a full refund in 2013 and 14 between the new theater.

Chongqing Municipal Committee of the person in charge of culture, the city had about 20 theaters will not enjoy subsidies. In order to reduce agriculture-related areas and remote counties film screenings main operating pressure and the cost burden of investment, the city actively seek the State Press and Publication Administration of Radio and national experts and Resources Committee, together with the municipal finance, and other multi-national digital management center to coordinate the efforts of last year National Resources Committee research group dedicated field visits to understand the actual situation in Chongqing.  LINK

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IHS: 72 PLF Brands Compete With Imax (But Only Two Are a Threat)

PLD Premium Large Format

IHS Technology recently published an Insight Report on “The market for Premium Large Format (PLF) cinema” as part of its Cinema Intelligence Service. Authored by Principal Analyst Charlotte Jones, the report does an excellent job of providing a comprehensive and data-focused overview of the PLF market.

With “Interstellar” shortly set to lift off in Imax, PLF and 70mm screens, it is thus worth shining a bright light on the biggest of all screens in the cinema business.

Premium large format (PLF) is a market that was practically invented by Imax but only took off when the large format (LF) operator switched from 40-50 minute documentaries in museums and institutions to showing first-run Hollywood films multiplexes.

Having survived the “Lie-MAX” backlash in 2009 of retrofitting Imax screens into too-small multiplex auditoriums, Imax has grown strongly on the back of the initial popularity of 3D films (think: “Avatar”) as well as major international expansion.

But Imax strict business terms and high licence fees, coupled with advances in digital cinema technology, has led many cinema chains to launch their own-brand PLF screens, often in competition or in parallel to Imax’s screens.

The PLF space has received a recent boost from the launch of the Dolby Atmos and Barco Auro 11.1 immersive audio (IA) formats that help distinguish PLF screens from non-premium screens, as well as the imminent launch of laser projection for high-brightness stereoscopic 3D on even the largest of screens. High frame rate (HFR) and 3D on the other hand are by themselves not sufficient enablers for PLF, as the report notes, even though they often command higher ticket prices.

It is the brand(ing) that has proven the key differentiator for Imax, with own-brand PLF screens struggling to match it in terms of cache and perceived value. (If you don’t believe us, we invite you to read on-line reviews of cinemas’ own-brand PLFs to see comments littered with ‘rip off’ and ‘pretend Imax’ vitriol). Yet though the report only hints at it, there are two operators/brand that post a significant threat to Imax at least in two key PLF cinema markets, which we will get to later.

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China Cinema Digest – Tuesday 28 October 2014

 

China online ticketing

Beginning in November, China will start reporting box office number and info using social media in an effort to improve transparency. The move is good news for Hollywood studios, but will also provide a better picture of the exhibition market in the world’s second largest cinema territory.

In July, the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television introduced an updated ticketing system, which gives better real-time information.

This week, Li Dong, head of a special unit of SAPPRFT which looks at ticketing and box office issues, said the watchdog was planning to release the information through popular social media, such as Weibo, which is similar to Twitter, and WeChat, which has parallels with WhatsApp. It wasn’t immediately clear at what frequency the data would be reported.  LINK

Wanda Cinemas Logo

The re-submission of their IPO prospectus has lead to plenty of coverage of Wanda Cinemas, including the astonishing revelation that the operator can manage the construction of an entire multiplex in just 105 days from start to finish. Lots of data, number and statistics in this article on China’s largest cinema operator, which still “only” accounts for less than 15% of total Mainland BO takings.

Coupling that is pure theater assets invested directly by theaters, cinemas and theaters all assets owned by relying on the model, capital and Wanda Cinema mode as a link for the film, its unified management, unified row theater piece. Since its inception in 2005, grossing Wanda Cinema faster growth each year, in 2011 box office revenue reached 1.785 billion yuan, accounting for the proportion of the movie grossed 13.61%; 2012 box office revenue reached 2.456 billion yuan, accounting for the movie box office income ratio was 14.39%; 2013, box office revenue reached 3.161 billion yuan, accounting for the proportion of the national film grossed 14.52%; 2014 January to June, the box office revenue reached 1.988 billion yuan, accounting for the proportion of movie box office revenue was 14.46%, continue to maintain the country’s first cinema box office revenue.

Wanda market share

Development of Wanda Wanda Plaza cinema into projects and tenant lease non Wanda commercial real estate development business projects, Wanda Cinema is the only strategic partner Wanda Plaza theater format, along with the rapid expansion of Wanda and other commercial real estate projects, Wanda cinema investment flourish, construction accelerated.

Wanda cinema investment and construction process is divided into the project site, theater design and theater construction, single Wanda cinema construction period is usually 105 days or so, in other words, after the completion of the siting and design of the theater, Wanda only three and a half months will be able to Wanda opened a theater. LINK

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China Special Cinema Digest – Thursday 25 September 2014

Today we catch up Chinese cinema news from the last couple of weeks, which I was unable to report while travelling. As always, the Google translation is not perfect, but as we do not have a journalist on staff who can translate perfectly from Mandarin (yet!), it will have to do. We are also saving the biggest piece of cinema news to come out of China recently for a separate post.

Chen Xing technology laser

Our favourite Chinese (digital) cinema equipment manufacturer Chen Xing has issues a list of “Seven Rules for Cinema Brand Building” that heavily promotes its own technologies and solutions, while also providing an insight into the company’s thinking and strategy.

Don’t forget what we’ve written about them before: “China’s ‘Last Mile’ Plan for Digital Cinema: Ditch Western Technology.” This is as much true for smartphones and airplanes as it is for cinema equipment – China does not want to keep importing ‘Western’ technologies but build their own (then export it). Such competition and innovation should not be seen as a threat but a good thing.

The Seven Rules are: acoustical design, sound system, laser light source projection, TMS centralized management and control systems, cinema ticketing management system and service quality guarantee system.

Chen Xing talks about the alternatives it will offer up when it comes to laser (illuminated) projection, as well as immersive audio, where its Cinelab has developed 5.1, 15.1 and 17.1 audio which “get rid of the shackles of sources,” and offer “the perfect interpretation of the Dolby (ATMOS) panoramic sound studio truest sound.”

Chen Xing fires a shot across the bows of the other manufacturers by pointing out that while not being part of the original DCI elite, it is one of the largest server/media block deployers in the world today.

Digital Film for film and television industry has brought tremendous changes. Especially in distribution and exhibition side, digital cinema technology has maintained rapid growth in recent years. Of course, these are inseparable from the updated device technology. Regardless nowadays 3D, IMAX, 4K and other high-tech marketing, have become an end shadow vane hall, the market demand for high-tech also “hubbub straight on.” Christie, Barco, NEC, SONY have launched projectors with laser light source, which means Hollywood recommended type of light source laser source trend.

Among them, in the digital cinema systems, as film screenings server core products while always being SONY, GDC, Dolby, Doremi and other foreign manufacturers, “occupation”, but with the development of technology, more and more Chinese national brand manufacturers Chen Xing Technology began as “emerging” by the market influence is also rising. It is understood that the field of the world’s digital projectors DCI-compliant digital cinema server products, market share and influence were sorted by: GDC, Dolby, Doremi, Chen Xing AQ series.  LINK

Imax Tianjin

Imax screens only account for one per cent (1%) of the total Mainland screen count but an astonishing ten per cent (10%) of the box office, according to an interview with Imax’s director in China Yuan Hong. He also reiterates that China’s total box office will overtake the United States, some time between 2018 and 2020. “When will we surpass the United States? Five years ago we did not expect to ask this question, now it is just around the corner,” he observes.

Also at the box office, too, “as the movie, the theater itself is dependent on bringing new grossing film screenings, but also for the huge traffic.” Especially as the Lunar New Year stalls, summer gears up. “It also shows that, for shopping centre developers, the introduction of a cinema format still has a very good future.” At the box office, although high, it brings high turnover, but the scene, Yuan Hong also points out is “broke.” “For the cinema itself the profit margins are very limited, even if the movie is good, it is quicker to make money from popcorn, drinks, toys and other Transformers. ”  LINK

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Zut Alors! France Discovers Secret to Reversing Cinema Decline

France 4 Euro scheme

While the US grapple with a poor summer box office (BO) most of western Europe seems to have accepted that as a mature cinema market, its countries will see stasis or gradual stagnation only interrupted by the occasional outsize local hit (Italy last year, Ireland this summer). German epitomises this trend, with the recent study of cinema attendance 2009-2013 showing an overall slow decline.

But one European country has challenged the notion that secular decline in the cinema sector is a structural inevitability of changing demographics, technological and economical trends – and it appears to have reversed that decline. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the country in question is France.

France is the only country in the world to take cinema seriously enough to consider the declining cinema attendance a national emergency. Having launched several public initiatives to counter it, the good news is that early indications are that the decline can not just be halted but reversed.

Focus on the Next Generation of Cinema Goers

We have reported earlier on preliminary findings, but these have now been confirmed by the the Centre National du Cinéma (the National Cinema Centre - CNC) in a major report.

On 1 January 2014 French exhibitors introduced a scheme whereby children under the age of 14 would only pay four euro (€4 – USD $5.25) for cinema tickets for every screening of every film for every day. This was a joint public-private effort with the French government doing its part, as noted in an article published a month before the scheme was launched.

This operation, “launching in 2014 but which is intended to continue beyond”, is in the context of the government’s decision to lower on January 1st the VAT on cinema admissions of 7.5% to 5% said Marc-Olivier Sebbag, General Manager of the FNCF (National Federation of French Cinemas).

The VAT reduction desired by the government, is being voted on by MPs. The Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti welcomed the “democratization initiative taken by members of the FNCF.”

There was some opposition from distributors at the time – I can’t imagine Disney in particular being thrilled about this – but with buy-in from all cinemas, as well as the Ministry of Culture, there was no way that Hollywood studios would be permitted to obstruct this initiative.

French films 2014 6-14 year olds

The FNCF was clear that the goal was to reverse the declining attendance, though they were prepared to re-appraise the terms and methods, based on how it played out.

For the federation, the goal is, “in a context of declining attendance,” to encourage young people to come “more easily and more frequently to the movies” and build audiences for the future. “This is a population that goes to the movies as a family, we therefore address the more general family audience,” said Marc-Olivier Sebbag.

“We will take stock at the end of the first year and we will see whether it should be adjusted, for example by changing the age or price,” said he said.

With under-14 accounting for eight to nine percent (8%-9%) of total admissions, or 16 million out of 200 million, this was a significant step as average ticket prices for this age group was €5.50, compared to the average cinema ticket price in France of €6.42.

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Chinese Box Office Growth Driven by Women and Millennials

Tiny times 3

The China Film Association and other units launched the “2014 Chinese Film Art Report” and “2014 China Film Industry Report” earlier this week in Beijing.

The reports analyse cinema consumption patterns of domestic Chinese films and finds that they are primarily driven by females, Millennials and repeat viewing, with an astonishing per head spending of several hundred dollars per month at the multiplex. The reports also worries about the “shallow” themes of some of the most popular Chinese films.

With foreign (mainly Hollywood) films restricted in the Mainland market under the 20+14 quota, China’s cinema growth is taking place mainly on the back of domestic films. The government is keen to encourage this growth, which is why it is focusing research efforts on understanding cinema consumption patterns.

These two reports look at 2013 releases, which totalled 311 movies, of which 250 were domestic films(1) and 61 foreign films(2). Out of these 219 were categorized as genre films, such as comedy, romance, and action films, while 31 were categorized as “non-genre”.

It notes that out of 59 films that earned more than one billion yuan at the box office 32 were domestic, with domestic films accounting for 58% of overall takings, the highest number ever for Chinese cinemas.

‘A Great Leap Backward’

The report and articles about it seize upon the youth focus and themes of the most successful films.

It is noteworthy that the themes about the current urban population of the urban youth film themes of love and youth, grow up to become a dark horse, and rescue. The higher box office films “To Youth”, “Tiny Times”, “Chinese Partner,” “Break the Contract”, “That Was Stolen Five Years”, etc., all have a youthful theme. But the report notes that, while a good number of youth films, many of the movie lacks intrinsic emotional power and creative artistic qualities, and themes of these films focus on youth and substance, youth and love, youth and nostalgia, but lack a richer ambiguity.

The article goes on to lambast the “speculative mentality prevailing” in many youth films with the highest market share, saying “the youth theme of this bonanza is shallow excessive consumption.” The sentiment is perhaps understandable as even western media has latched onto what makes films such as “Tiny Times 3″ so popular.

YouTube Preview Image

Here is for example what the BBC had to say about it:

Tiny Times couldn’t be further from Mao’s ascetic communism: it is a wholesale celebration of conspicuous consumption and materialism that has been described as a cross between Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada.

The series follows four attractive, fashion-obsessed young women in Shanghai: Lily, Ruby, Lin and Nan Xiang. It chronicles their lives and romances. The actresses look perfect – nicely groomed and slim. There are constant references to sports cars and expensive brands such as Prada and Gucci. The characters are often in opulent surroundings as they enter into relationships with handsome, well-dressed men.

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German Cinema Screen Trends 2009-2013: Specialist Screens See Strong Growth

German cinema screens 2009-2013

The German Federal Film Board (FFA) has just published a detailed study (pdf) of cinema screen trends over the last five years, with some surprising findings. As a mature exhibition market, multiplex numbers are static, but there is significant growth of outdoor and specialist screens.

The number of multiplex screens in 2013 was exactly the same as in 2009: 1,294, though peaking at 1,301 in 2010. There were more than twice as many non-multiplex/traditional screens, though these declined from 2,870 in 2009 to 2,737 in 2013 in a trend that is likely to continue and contributed to decline of total screens, though at just -0.2% in the most recent year (equivalent to seven screens), less pronounced than past years.

Though the report does not mention it, it is important to remember that these were the key years for digital cinema implementation in Germany. However, the full digital death toll is likely to only come in the statistics for 2014 when the termination of 35mm print distribution is likely to see a significant drop in the numbers of ‘traditional screens’.

What is most interesting to note is the growth of specialised screens, which increased from 570 in 2009 to 586 in 2012, before settling at 579 for the last year of the report. These include Community/Culture centre cinemas (162), Associations (136) and University cinemas (126), with other types of cinemas as well, most of which did not screen film on anything more than a weekly basis.

Falling Overall Attendance

German cinema attendance

Despite two small year-on-year rises in the years covered by the report, overall cinema attendance in Germany is showing a slow but steady decline. Interestingly traditional screens have held their own against multiplex screens, having nearly half of the total market – 49.2% against 46.9% for the multiplex screens. Multiplex screens only outperformed traditional screens in 2010, which was also the year of lowest overall cinema attendance.

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