Vietnam's 'Adrift' Gets Local Welcome

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After traveling to nearly ten international film festivals, the award-winning Vietnamese movie Choi Voi (Adrift) was screened in its native country in early November through distributors Thien Ngan (Galaxy). The success of Adrift at the local box office is an example of Galaxy's new strategy of increasing distribution of Vietnamese films to the local market.

Distribution manager Dinh Thanh Huong explains, “Galaxy distributes to screens and produces movies. Through our role as distributors, we see that Vietnamese audiences want to watch Vietnamese films. However, revenue from local films is very small compared to total revenue from distribution of local and imported films."

Huong continues, "The ratio of local films distributed in Vietnam is low, around five to seven percent of the total. However, the market for Vietnamese films here at home can increase if we get distribution rights. Also, we want to distribute films produced by the state and private film studios.”

Galaxy now says it wants to work with film producers to ensure there is diversification in local market films so that the audience can grow. Galaxy also states that while ticket prices are set by cinemas themselves, they don’t suggest a policy of cutting prices for Vietnamese films. Instead, they suggest that with many cinemas offering differing prices, viewers can make their own choices.

In Hanoi, Adrift was screened at the Megastar multiplex with comparatively high ticket prices of 50,000 to 80,000 dong and at the National Cinema Centre for 30,000 to 40,000 dong (10,000 dong equals 56 U.S. cents).

Huong declares, “We want to build up the habit of watching Vietnamese films among Vietnamese people and expand market share… At present, we don’t aim to profit in distributing Vietnamese films. Instead, we will share the challenges with Vietnamese producers and we’ll support Vietnamese films. In the long run, we hope everyone will benefit.”

Rider Exits UIP Asia

Generally this time of year, business slows down a bit and there are fewer topics to write about. But that’s not the case this year.

Kurt Rieder, United International Pictures’ VP of sales and marketing for its Asian operations, left the company when it shuttered its Singapore doors in late October. Rieder, former managing director of Singapore-based distributor-exhibitor Golden Village, also held senior posts at Village Roadshow, Thai exhibitor EGV, Village Cinemas in Argentina and Warner Bros. He was named CineAsia's Distributor of the Year in 2006.

Rieder is staying in Singapore but moving to a consultative role at Artisan Gateway.
According to Kurt, the formal announcement will be made in January, but The Hollywood Reporter jumped the gun and announced the move in their online edition on Nov 1. Rieder was a pioneer in exhibition and distribution here in Asia and we wish him well with Artisan.

Japan’s United Cinemas Wins ‘Good Design’ Award

Sumitomo Corp. affiliate United Cinemas Co. Ltd. received the 2009 version of the Good Design Award in the "human body and personal service systems" category, the first in the industry to win the award three times consecutively. United Cinemas, which operates 21 multiplexes in Japan, was recognized ahead of more than 1,000 companies and designers for its outstanding provision of facilities, which allow for comfortable space, pleasant atmosphere and good service.

Ordinarily, moviegoers queue up to buy tickets, then, perhaps, something from the cinema shop or concession stand, sit through the picture, and finally leave the theatre soon after the film's conclusion. United Cinemas is aiming to change this pattern which limits the function of the conventional movie theatre to simply moviegoing, instead offering a new, more functional facility, expanding on a deeper pool of leisure activities related to culture, fashion and lifestyle, and giving customers more of a relaxing atmosphere.

In pursuit of this vision, the company has collaborated with a wide range of designers and creators to develop theatres with unique characteristics in locations such as Toyosu, Maebashi, Urawa and Kasukabe.

Kunihisa Akiyama, who manages the construction facility department at United Cinema, talks passionately about "Design Cinema," the company's ambitious and novel project under his direction. "It is a new-concept cinema, inspired by out-of-the-box thinking and cooperation among many talented people from various areas of expertise. We will continue to design and develop cinemas that reflect our evolving society, bring people together, stimulate them, and win their favor."

Bollywood Gets Bigger in U.S.
I was surprised to see the Oct 26, 2009 article in the L.A. Times online column "Company Time" titled ‘Bollywood movies a bright spot for U.S. cinema industry.” The article discusses India's largest theatre chain, Big Cinemas, which is hoping to cash in on the fast-growing and affluent population of Indian-Americans. Big now manages 18 U.S. theatres, with some showing Indian films only.

As Asia/Pacific bureau chief for Film Journal International, I gotta know what's going on here. Indian theatres in China and the U.S., Mexican theatres and Thai-related entertainment business in India…I wish all these cross-cultural/cross-border projects well, but how are they going to work? Maybe by CineAsia 2010, I'll be able to tell you.

Here’s to a successful CineAsia, and if you bump into me there, feel free to let me know how you and your business are doing. I'd be glad to "tweet" about you (scott_cos) on Twitter.

Contact Asia-Pacific bureau chief Scott Rosenberg with your news items at (662) 982-4525, by fax at (662) 982-4526, or by e-mail at scott.rosenberg@gmail.com.