Saluting Excellence at CineAsia

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One of the mainstays of all the major theatrical conventions, whether in Las Vegas, Barcelona, Miami or Hong Kong, is content. This is what generates attendance: Delegates want to see product reels and feature screenings. Of course, there are other factors like business sessions, new technologies and networking. And these events also offer the opportunity to single out individuals who have helped shape the motion picture industry through their innovative business style, their achievements, or their sheer determination to make a difference and succeed.

Three key individuals meet this criteria and are being singled out along with their companies for extraordinary achievements at the annual Hong Kong event, CineAsia.

One such person is Mei Lee Koh, CEO of Malaysia's largest cinema chain, Golden Screen Cinemas, and recipient of the prestigious CineAsia “Exhibitor of the Year” Award. Koh oversees the circuit’s entire business operations, putting a clear emphasis on teamwork. Under her leadership, GSC has expanded to 306 screens in 33 locations across Malaysia. The company has also opened 43 screens in seven locations across Vietnam with local partner Galaxy Studios.

With such success in its film exhibition business, it is not surprising that GSC also forayed into the movie production arena. Koh is quite modest and during the interview with her, she constantly repeated that GSC is foremost a concerted team effort and that she sees herself as simply part of that team. Yes, Koh is a remarkably talented professional and a remarkable person who loves the motion picture industry.

Another individual who will be singled out in Hong Kong will be Noriaki “Dick” Sano, former managing director of film distribution at Sony Pictures Releasing International, with the CineAsia Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dick joined Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan in 2005 and for the past 11 years led the studio’s film distribution team to success before retiring earlier this year. He oversaw some of the most successful film releases for the studio, including The Da Vinci Code, the Spider-Man movies, the four latest James Bond films and the Resident Evil series. Sano is being feted for his contributions not only to Sony Pictures but also the Japanese motion picture industry.

Walt Disney Motion Pictures International will receive the “Distributor of the Year” Award at the CineAsia ceremony. The top three international and top four global titles of the year thus far have been released by Disney, including the billion-dollar hits Captain America: Civil War, Zootopia and Finding Dory, as well as The Jungle Book, which has grossed over $966 million globally. Remarkably, Zootopia became the highest-grossing animated film of all time in China and the second-biggest release ever in Russia.

Driven by these four films along with the record-setting release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in late 2015, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International has already surpassed $3.5 billion in international box office with two months still remaining in calendar year 2016. The studio rounds out its 2016 offerings with three more major releases: Marvel’s Doctor Strange, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Moana and Lucasfilm’s Rogue One.

The award will be accepted by David Kornblum, VP, theatrical sales and distribution, APAC/ Russia and global acquisitions. David has worked for the studio for over 27 years. Over the course of his career, he has been involved in the distribution of more than 600 titles across all genres throughout the international marketplace, including the record-setting launches of Star Wars; The Force Awakens, Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Avengers, Frozen, Zootopia, Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides, Toy Story 3 and Finding Dory, all of which grossed more than $1 billion worldwide and chart amongst the biggest releases in motion picture history.

In his current role, Kornblum oversees the international distribution of all Disney Studios, Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation titles in 15 markets including Japan, Australia, South Korea, China and Russia. He oversees all international acquisitions for the division and has been responsible for distributing them throughout the international marketplace.

Congratulations to all three distinguished CineAsia honorees!

China Passes a Film Law

It seems that you cannot go a week without something about China appearing in the trade press. If it's not about Wanda, Alibaba, Tencent or Baidu, it's about China surpassing the U.S. as the country with the highest ticket sales revenue.

This past fortnight, there was news that China's top legislature passed the first law governing the country's film industry. Some aspects of the law will be cheered by Hollywood, such as tough penalties for box-office fraud and film piracy, but others are potentially troubling, like a vague edict against collaboration with foreign studios or individuals thought to have “damaged China's national dignity.”

Following a phenomenal year in 2015 that saw ticket sales in China rise by 49 percent, as of October 2016 growth had shrunk to just 4.7 percent. It is widely felt that ticket fraud is one of the factors behind this box-office drop. The new law provides license suspensions and stiff fines for falsifying ticket-sales figures.

The new law goes into effect on March 1, 2017. There certainly will be more coming from China before that date. Stay tuned.