China Dominates the News


China is in the news again, and again, and again. The entertainment pages of the Hollywood trades as well as the global press are constantly focused on the Chinese movie industry, if not daily than on a weekly basis. That’s no surprise, as China is now the second-largest film market in the world following the U.S. and is expected to overtake America by 2020.

Transformers: Age of Extinction opened in China to $30 million, the biggest opening day of all time in that country for a foreign film. Transformers and other films that have been performing very well at the box office—Godzilla, Maleficent, Edge of Tomorrow and X-Men—have caught the attention of Chinese officials who worry about domestic movies getting lost beneath these mega-films. China Film Bureau chief Zhang Hongsen likened these releases to a war being waged in theatres.

Zhang and other Chinese officials and moviemakers are concerned that their country is being taken over and that domestic studios and distributors will not be able to compete. However, Chinese laws regulate the number of foreign films imported each year, which provides some relief for domestic filmmakers as well as the ability to pull a movie from the nation’s theatres if it is doing too well at the box office. How do you compete with that? It is still too early to see what action the government might or will take following the success of Transformers.

On other fronts, the state-owned giant China Film Group is planning a $740 million initial public offering, in an effort to bolster its infrastructure and help the Chinese movie industry compete with Hollywood. The China Film Group produces, imports, exports and distributes films, operates movie theatres, manages talent and sells film equipment.

In mid-June, the Chinese government introduced a policy document aiming to provide tax incentives for the film industry and a fund to support some state-owned movies and theatres.

In other news, the Motion Picture Association of America forged a deal with Google-backed Chinese-language video and file-sharing site Xunlei to fortify legitimate access to film and TV shows online. Xunlei was sued in 2008 by the Hollywood studios for film piracy and has now entered into a Content Protection Agreement to safeguard film and television content online and to educate the public on gaining legal access to movies and TV shows. “These steps are aimed at countering the suspected mass infringement of MPAA studios titles on Xunlei’s services,” the MPAA stated.

And finally, Chinese conglomerate Fosun International announced that it is investing in former Warner Bros. executive Jeff Robinov’s new company, Studio 8, to the tune of as much as $200 million.

You can be sure that we will be reporting on more happenings in China in future months and years.

The Future of Online Ticketing
The entertainment news website “The Wrap” recently unveiled some surprising data from online ticket brokers and Fandango showing that their sales represent just 20 percent of all movie tickets sold in the U.S. Considering that we have become a society of technological devices, this figure is quite low compared to what this editor had expected. 

Following up on this story, we were unable to find any empirical data that tracks online or phone purchases versus walk-up sales. Neither the MPAA nor NATO tracks this, so figures presented by the two ticket brokers are probably the best record to go by.

Why do moviegoers use phone purchases anyway? The research done by “The Wrap” indicates that the fear of being shut out of a particular film at a specific time is the main catalyst for people going online to buy a ticket. So data from these companies will undoubtedly show that more tickets are sold online when a blockbuster is released and people want to flock to their neighborhood theatre on opening night or the first or second day.

Statistics for Europe will skew quite differently, because patrons buy reserved seats for a specific location—so buying online is almost a prerequisite to getting a good seat. In order for the percentages in the U.S. to rise, patrons will need to be motivated by more than just the fear factor of not getting a seat; they will need to want to buy online to guarantee the best seat in the house.

Some U.S. circuits have experimented with reservations for a specific seat, similar to what happens at a ballpark or live theatre. We believe this will happen more frequently with weekend sales and for major tentpole films. It works in Europe and other parts of the world and should find its way to the States in due time. Also, with the proliferation of home computers and mobile devices, online booking should increase.

Changing the habits of moviegoers is not an easy task. But with good marketing and more and more people dependent on their mobile devices, it will happen. Also, as Fandango and make more partnerships with other platforms that can serve as purchase points, more people will find it easier to just hit a button to get their tickets. Isn’t it all about getting the best seats and making it easy for the customer?

NAC Celebrates 70 Years
The National Association of Concessionaires is marking its 70th anniversary with a big change: The name of their annual convention has been changed from the NAC Convention & Trade Show to the NAC Concession & Hospitality Expo. As executive VP Dan Borschke explains, “We’re more than just theatres and sporting events. We encompass a lot of different and unique venues.” The commonality among its diverse members is hospitality.

Although most people think of movie theatres first, the NAC’s membership also includes food and beverage operations of stadiums and arenas, zoos and aquariums, colleges and universities, parks, racetracks, bowling alleys and much more. NAC president Jeff Scudillo notes that this varied membership benefits theatrical exhibition, as theatres are getting more involved in not just typical concessions but upscale food and beverages including alcoholic drinks.

The August edition of FJI celebrates 70 years of the NAC, including interviews with past presidents and a nice article on the career of former executive director Chuck Winans, who served the association for more than 38 years. We hope you enjoy reading it.