How will the Wanda buyout impact AMC?


The biggest story in exhibition circles here in Asia is the acquisition of Kansas City-based AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. by China’s Dalian Wanda Group Co. Ltd. Major media outlets have written extensively on the purchase, but what I have not seen is an analysis of the cultural impact on AMC's 346 multiplex cinemas.

It was a little scary to hear Wang Jianlin, chairman and president of Wanda, say his goal was to own theatres covering 20 percent of the world market by 2020. Mr. Wang stated that his aim for the circuits was to “combine and synergize and make them profitable.”

Having personally done business with Chinese companies from our base here in Bangkok, I can say that Chinese business expectations are different than Western ones and are often not verbalized. It remains to be seen if Gerry Lopez, CEO and president of AMC, along with his company's 18,500 employees will be able to adapt to the cultural shift. Changes in business practices will come gradually, but they will come. It will be interesting to follow.

Farewell to Wanasiri Morakul

On May 1, the director of the Thailand Film Office (TFO), Ms. Wanasiri Morakul, transitioned to a new role in the Department of Tourism’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports.

We wish her well in her new position. But we say that with a note of sadness, for Morakul has been the backbone of the TFO since its inception and a good friend of the entertainment industry in Thailand. In fact, even before the Film Office was created within the Ministry of Tourism and Sports by law in 2002, Morakul headed up a nascent film office under the Thai Public Relations Department. She became director of the newly established TFO under the Office of Tourism Development in 2006.

Morakul knew early on that TFO needed to become competitive in a rapidly growing field of location destinations in Asia and, for that matter, worldwide, and to that end she lobbied the government hard for incentives to strengthen Thailand's position.

Over the course of her tenure as director, Morakul made it a top priority to train and educate the production-service private-sector industry as well as work with all departments of the government to harmonize rules and regulations for foreign filmmakers so they could more easily realize their productions in Thailand.

During her tenure, Thailand won several international awards as top production location destination in Asia and the industry grew and prospered.

Surely we will miss Ms. Morakul, but we take comfort knowing that she is close at hand in the Department of Tourism. A new TFO director has not yet been named.

Thailand Welcomes Foreign Shoots
Speaking of the Thailand Film Office, Thailand earned US$40.7 million from foreign production location shoots in the first four months of 2012, according to the TFO. From January to April 2012, there were 21 films, 37 documentaries, 138 commercial ads, 32 TV series, and nine music-videos filmed on location in Thailand.

Japanese filmmakers once again topped the list with 50 productions, followed by 43 from India, 38 from Europe, 19 from South Korea, 17 from Hong Kong, 10 from the United States, eight from China, three from Australia and one from Taiwan. An additional 48 productions were registered as from "other locations.” In March alone, there were 71 foreign productions that generated US$12.1 million.

Asian Film Market Pacts with Cannes
The Asian Film Market, an activity of the Busan International Film Festival, signed an MOU on May 20 with Marché du Film (the largest film market in the world that runs in conjunction with the Cannes Film Festival) to increase cooperation.

Signing the MOU were Namsik Hur and Yong-Kwan Lee, chairmen of the Busan Festival, along with Jérôme Paillard, director of Marché du Film.

As part of the MOU, the Asian Film Market will collaborate and share its database with The database run by the Cannes Film Festival possesses comprehensive information on the global film market. With, the Busan International Film Festival will create an online screening page exclusively for films competing in the festival’s New Currents section.

Also signed was an MOU with UniFrance Films (the largest organization in charge of distributing and promoting French cinema). Hur and Lee reached an agreement with Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, president of UniFrance Films, to solidify linkages between the film markets of the two countries. The festival agreed to assist UniFrance Films in finding a broader Asian audience for French cinema. French film distribution and sales companies affiliated with UniFrance Films will be encouraged to participate in the Asian Film Market and broaden their industry network.

The 17th Busan International Film Festival will be held from Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 to Saturday, Oct. 13

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