The CineAsia show held this week was a return to form in the new/former home of Bangkok after a gap of three shows, since its last event in Hong Kong in 2018. While it had been previously held in Bangkok many years ago, there were a lot of uncertainties about the move and inevitable challenges about a new venue. Fortunately there was widespread agreement that the show in its new guise was a great success. While we cannot do the show full justice here, we wanted to share some impressions while it is still fresh in our minds and offer our congratulations to Andrew and Bob Sunshine, as well as the whole Film Expo Group team.
Apart from the weather (goodbye HK Christmas chill; hello hot BKK humidity), the biggest change was going from a closed conference centre to an open shopping mall venue; the very upscale IconSiam complex. This presented its own set of challenges, but Jordan, his FEG and local teams (including Goldenduck Group) overcame them elegantly. They were more than ably assisted by their venue partner, Major Cineplex Group, whose magnificent new cinema was the home to the presentations and screenings. The show also included a river boat tour to the no-less impressive SF Cinema Terminal 21 Rama 3, which had also recently opened.
All five big Hollywood studios were well represented and put on impressive slate presentations, with regional films also given their due. While we can’t comment on individual films, it was reassuring that from February of next year there is a solid schedule of releases every month, with gaps as was the case in Q3 this year. Assuming no further release date shifts, cinemas can thus look ahead to the first “normal” year in terms of year-round releases, since the start of the pandemic. There were some minor grumblings about the need for an “overspill” screen (11) when the primary screen (12) rapidly filled up during presentation, while the Asians’ attachments to their smartphones was also initially underestimated. On the other hand, the IMAX screen was a great venue for everything from the State of the Industry Keynote by Kurt Reider from Warner Bros., the obligatory MPA presentation and the executive roundtable.
CineAsia once again saw GDC Technology return as the main sponsor of the event and the cinema technology solutions provider did not disappoint with a torrent of press releases about new deals. Other companies also staked out their claim to next generation cinema technology advances, including Christie’s impressive Cinity demonstration, Qube, CJ 4DPlex, Dolby, DTS:X, the Vista family and Cinionic. The trade show floor was somewhat small, as it has been at every conference this year, but there was definitely delegate traffic and vendors spoke of having productive meetings with lots of leads and even deals. It is also the only cinema show we’ve been to where Coke and Pepsi were equally represented.
There were plenty of international dignitaries as the Global Cinema Federation (GCF) convened in person, with Fithian looking chipper on his last official visit and Jackie Brenneman by his side. UKCA and UNIC President Phil Clapp also attended and said on LinkedIn, “I’ve been hugely impressed by the attendance and the sheer joy shown by people in getting back together after four long years.” It was this happiness, hearty handshakes and hugs between colleagues that had often not seen each other for four years that became the defining memory of the show. Zoom and webinars have their place, but there is no substitute for meeting industry folks in person, at least once a year.
There was just one notable absence at the show, with Chinese delegates, cinemas and vendors effectively the absent hole in the CineAsia donut. The Zero Covid restrictions were just being lifted in Mainland China, but few Chinese made the journey to avoid having to face long quarantine on their return. This made the final day’s luncheon award so much more poignant, when the recognition for Exhibitor of the Year went to Lumiere Pavilions from China. Accepted by President Jane Shao and Chairman and CEO Jimmy Wu, the latter was overcome with emotions and tears welled up as he recounted the early impact of the pandemic (Lumiere has a cinema in Wuhan) and the terrible financial, personal and emotional toll the pandemic had wrought on them.
“That was so necessary,” one executive told Variety shortly after the awards. “It is so easy to see our dealings with China through a political lens. But these are real people, real lives and real businesses that are in pain.” No wonder this was the one award that made the entire room rise and give a standing ovation to the recipients.
A happy conclusion to the show was that not only were those attending treated to several new glimpses of Pandora, but on the last day of the show the positive reviews for “Avatar: The Way of Water” started pouring in, confirming that the much anticipated film (if that isn’t an understatement) will deliver in spades and bring a happy ending to 2022; a year that began with high hopes, but saw its fair share of challenges. “We should not say that the cinema market has recovered,” GSC’s Koh Mei Lee said at the executive roundtable, “but rather it has evolved.” So too has CineAsia and in a very positive direction. We already look forward to being back in Bangkok 4-7 December 2023.
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Celluloid Junkie is the leading online resource dedicated to the global film and cinema business. The Marquee is our newsletter focused on motion picture exhibition; keeping industry professionals informed of important news, the latest trends and insightful analysis