The Asia Juggernaut

In Focus

The most important and fastest-expanding continent on the world's box-office stage is undoubtedly the Asia-Pacific region. Eight of the top 20 international box-office markets are located in the region, where revenues hit US$14.9 billion in 2016. China accounts for nearly half this total; the other markets are Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Not only is APAC leading the box-office charge, but the region is also the leader in technology. Most of their multiplexes are relatively new compared to their counterparts in North America, and that allows them to put in new, modern equipment from the beginning rather than have to switch it out from old analog machines that date back 50 years. As IHS Markit research director David Hancock notes in our December issue:

* Starting with the earliest of these new technologies—3D—Asia now boasts more than 54% of all 3D screens in the world.

* The region has more than 1,000 PLF (premium large format) screens and has now surpassed North America, with 41% of global PLF screens.

* 4D is quite popular in Asia and accounts for 71% of all 4D screens worldwide.

* APAC is home to Wanda and Korea’s CJ CGV, two of the largest circuits in the world.

* And now a newcomer to cinema technology is LED direct-view cinema screens from Korea-based Samsung.

The entire cinema industry looks to Asia for the next “gizmo” that will change the world of exhibition.

CineAsia Focuses on China

Each year in December, APAC market leaders travel to Hong Kong for CineAsia. The convention has been growing at a steady rate, with exhibitors from all over the region putting it on their yearly calendar. The Hollywood studios are there en masse and participate with product presentations and screenings. New this year is “A Focus on China.” It was a no-brainer for the management team to expand the show to do something special on the Chinese market, as it is the single biggest market for cinema exhibition outside of the U.S. With participation from GDC, IMAX, China Film Co., Barco, Wanda Pictures, Bona, New Classics and Huayi Brothers, it is attracting a substantial audience. The program will be held in Mandarin.

Honoring Exhibition Pioneers

Two of the honorees at CineAsia 2017 are very successful theatre operators in different parts of the world. Both are pioneers in their field: Ajay Bijli opened India to the multiplex phenomenon and Won Chun Cha has enhanced the operating efficiency of his circuit by introducing the network operation center. PVR is the largest circuit in India and Lotte is the second-biggest in Korea. Each of these men will take the stage at CineAsia’s annual awards luncheon.

PVR was founded in 1997 as a joint venture with Australia's Village Roadshow. It became a wholly independent venture four years later and today operates 600 screens spread out over 131 properties in 51 cities. The multiplex phenomenon in India is relatively new, begun only 20 years ago when PVR opened its first four-screen multiplex in Delhi. Before this venture, India was predominantly single-screen theatres with enormous auditoriums. Although most PVR multiplexes are plush and ultra-modern, PVR applies a multi-pronged strategy to cover all segments and demographics. The circuit is also consistently is at the forefront of introducing new technologies unheard of in India, such as IMAX and 4DX theatres.

The recipient of CineAsia’s “Special Achievement Award,” Won Chun Cha was instrumental in getting Lotte and others to open more theatres in shopping malls in Korea. Currently, Lotte operates 818 screens in 115 theatres. The company's pioneering efforts to integrate new technologies into its theatres is one of its greatest strengths.

We salute both CineAsia honorees and hope you enjoy the extensive coverage of PVR and Lotte in our December issue.

Horror Renaissance

For decades, the horror genre has been a safe financial bet for aspiring movie producers. In the 1930s, scary creatures like the Frankenstein monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man kept Universal Pictures in the black, and later years brought very successful long-running fright franchises like Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. Through the years, there have been countless examples of low-budget horror flicks bringing big returns.

The formula doesn’t always work—audiences can sniff out a ridiculous high concept that doesn’t deliver the scary goods. But 2017 has been an exceptional year for the genre, topped by the most successful horror film of all time, Warner Bros. and New Line’s new version of the classic Stephen King novel It, which has earned nearly $700 million worldwide. Director Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of the iconic killer-clown tale won critical acclaim and drove great word of mouth.

But that’s not the only horror smash hit this year. Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) made a huge comeback with the multiple-personality chiller Split ($278 million worldwide on a $9 million production budget); Annabelle: Creation ($305 million worldwide on a $15 million budget) kept that series robust; and Happy Death Day had reason to celebrate with its $88.5 million world gross on a $4.8 million budget.

And then there’s Get Out, one of the most talked-about films of 2017. The Golden Globes have stirred controversy by categorizing it as a comedy. Though it does have funny moments, this thriller/social satire (which writer-director Jordan Peele has mischievously called a documentary) is dead serious about the state of race relations in 2017. It’s also most certainly a horror movie—perhaps the most original and bracing the film world has ever seen. A word-of-mouth juggernaut attracting not only black audiences but speaking most directly to them, it’s earned $253 million worldwide on a $4.5 million production budget.

We think we see a pattern in the above figures; here’s hoping this winning formula continues well into 2018 and beyond.