3D arrives in Vietnam

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Vietnamese cinema operator Galaxy Cinema recently opened a new theatre with five screens in Ho Chi Minh City. The cinema has more than 1,000 seats, with one screen dedicated to 3D movies.

In April, Galaxy launched its first two 3D screens. Ticket sales from those screens in the first 20 days reached approximately US$210,000, the company said. Galaxy is planning to open a new theatre in Hanoi later this year.

But all does not bode well for the entertainment industry in Vietnam. According to director Le Thanh Son (Bay Rong), who recently won the New Asian Director Award at the Phuket Film Festival, the Vietnamese government is still very repressive when it comes to movies produced and screened in Vietnam. "There is a lot of money paid, rightly or wrongly, in order to get pictures made and onto screens," Le declared.

Let's hope continued expansion of the exhibition industry will spur domestic development of film, allowing the government to back off a bit. Such was the case in Thailand back in the mid-1990s after the advent of the multiplex and the fall of the positive print film tax.

IMAX Grows in Asia
IMAX Corp. is continuing to expand in Asia, and I'd like to think it has something to do with the arrival of our friend Anthony Vogels, who segued from his position as United International Pictures topper in Thailand to head up IMAX International on June 1. But we know these kinds of deals take a while to materialize.

Back in March, the Canada-based company announced it will be building 15 screens in South Korea and one in Singapore. In April, IMAX revealed plans for five new 3D theatres to be developed with Tokyo Recreation across Japan. And in June, IMAX signed an agreement with Thailand’s Major Cineplex Group to open five giant-screen theatres. So far in 2010, IMAX has announced deals for 40 new theatre systems in Asia.

Thailand Prepares First 3D Picture

Thailand's Shellhut Entertainment teamed up with Singapore-based Tiny Island Productions to co-produce a 3D CG-animated feature based on Shelldon, which is about various forms of marine life under the Andaman Sea. It's planned for release in 2012. This would be Thailand's first 3D movie.

Set in Shell Land, the story focuses on a shy shell named Shelldon, who lives with his parents and helps them run the Charming Clam guesthouse. Sounds like somewhere I'd like to visit on my next vacation…

Huay Brothers Enter Exhibition

Beijing-based Huay Brothers Media Group, renowned producers and distributors of Chinese film and TV product since 1994, has now branched out into the exhibition business, opening an eight-screen multiplex in the southwestern city of Chongqing.

The 1,430-seat cinema opened with The Weinstein Co.'s World War II-era thriller Shanghai, starring Gong Li and John Cusack, which was filmed in the U.K. and Thailand. Huay Brothers is slated to open its second screen this month and five more by the end of the year.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, once Huay Brothers has opened 10 cinemas of its own, it is allowed to apply for circuit status, gaining greater control of the flow of films into its theatres—a key tool in making a theatre profitable.

THR reports China has only 5,000 screens for its 1.3 billion people.

Bollywood Tours on the Rise

I’ve been saving my favorite story for last: Those of you who have visited Los Angeles, have inevitably seen the Starline Tours double-decker buses gliding through the streets of the city, especially around Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

Not to be outdone by Hollywood, an Indian company called Special Holidays is offering movie buffs Bollywood tour packages. Categorized into half-day, full-day and even two-day tours, these packages are designed to give patrons a better perspective on the history and creative art of Indian filmmaking.

“Indians and foreigners alike are very interested in how films, especially Hindi movies (known as Bollywood movies), are made. Through these packages, they get the opportunity to decode cinema and take home memories that will last a lifetime,” declares Sandeep Jain, director of Special Holidays.

As part of these packages, guests are taken to film sets at Mumbai’s Film City. Here, they can watch as various productions go through the technical and creative aspects of filmmaking like music recording, make-up, editing and costume design.

"They can interact with the artists and technicians and get all their queries answered,” Jain says. “We also give them an introduction to Bollywood and talk in detail about the evolution of cinema.”

Tourists can also participate in a dance training class supervised by a choreographer, watch a stunt man in action and be part of a street show with themes like village life or the circus. They can also visit various famous film locations and catch glimpses of star homes from the outside. Jain notes, “When Slumdog Millionaire became a huge phenomenon, we got several requests to include that in our Bollywood package and we obliged.”

Clients can also interact with the film’s director, producer and lead actors and get pictures taken. Special Holidays also conducts mock film shoots for its groups. Jain says, “For instance, they can pick any movie they want, like a Sholay or a Dil Chahta Hai, and we will shoot a film with them as the lead characters.”

These tours are not restricted to Mumbai and Bollywood alone. Similar tours are also available in Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad, MGR Film City, Chennai and Noida Film City. But Jain says Mumbai gets the biggest crowds, as it is the movie capital of India.

I said it first in this column several months ago: Watch out Hollywood, here comes Bollywood!

Contact Scott Rosenberg with relevant news stories at prdivision@gmail.com. You can also follow him at Twitter scott_cos.