UIP VIP: CineAsia salutes Han Seng Lim


Han Seng Lim, executive director of sales and marketing, Southeast Asia, at United International Pictures (UIP), will be honored at CineAsia 2012 in Hong Kong with the annual “Distributor of the Year” Award. Lim oversees the functions of both UIP offices and licensees in the region. He started with the company in 1997, working in sales and distribution for the UIP Singapore office before eventually moving to the regional office in 2000 as a management trainee. He was named Worldwide Employee of the Year in 2003 and led the region to record-breaking, company-best years in 2008 and again in 2011, handling titles such as Kung Fu Panda, Mamma Mia!, Iron Man, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol.

Lim recently took time from his busy schedule to speak with Film Journal International about his successful career.

Film Journal International: How did UIP do in the region this year compared to other years?
Han Seng Lim: 2012 is not an exceptional year for UIP, but 2011 was a record-breaking one for the company—we scored the biggest year ever in our history. The last time we broke this record was back in 2008, so it was very gratifying to do so again so soon.

FJI: What territories did exceptionally well this year and why?
HSL: Our biggest growth markets in Southeast Asia for the past few years have been Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. These are the rapidly developing markets which are still underscreened and have the potential to expand.

FJI: Any special marketing programs used this year?
HSL: Marketing is of course a critical area for our business, and so thankfully our campaigns are consistently on par with (if not better than) industry standards. A key challenge in recent years for UIP was adjusting and adapting to the structural changes at our partner studios, Universal and Paramount. As you know, UIP considerably reduced its international operations starting in 2007, with the two studios moving increasingly in their own directions, and more recently the Paramount Pictures International headquarters in London was shut down and moved to L.A. with an entirely new team.

FJI: Overall in Asia, what are some of the issues that exist hindering growth, or are markets still growing?
HSL: The region will continue to grow, although some markets obviously [will grow] faster. It is key to keep the cinema-going experience alive and our aim is to continue working with exhibition partners to enhance the experience. Online piracy will become increasingly worrying as broadband penetration and speed plus mobile devices continue to get enhanced and more advanced.

FJI: Many people continue to ask about full deployment of digital. What do you think?
HSL: 35mm will soon be a specialized item, and so it is no longer a choice for our exhibition partners. The studios are doing all they can to support the transition. Digital conversion will be beneficial in the long run on the piracy front. It also opens the door to alternative content and/or satellite opportunities for our exhibition partners.

FJI: How will the ASEAN Economic Community coming into force in 2015 impact business?
HSL: Wealth generation and economic progress will of course be beneficial to the region as a higher tide will raise all boats, but as an industry our key consideration will still be to keep the theatre-going experience relevant and exciting. UIP will continue to lead the charge in accessing and nurturing new markets such as Myanmar, Mongolia, Pakistan, Cambodia and Laos.

FJI: Tell us a little about your life away from the office. Anything in your background lead to your love of movies?
HSL: I'm married with a ten-year-old daughter. My employment with UIP is by chance, as I wasn’t looking to get into any industry specifically when I approached the recruitment agency some 15 years ago. As luck would have it, the agency I went to was next door to UIP and they told me about a sales coordinator opening there which I ended up interviewing for and took up. I jumped at the chance, as I’ve always enjoyed movies. As for other hobbies, football is my biggest passion and I can’t get through the weekend without my English Premier League fix. I’m a lifelong Manchester United fan. Family is at the core of everything that I do, and hence I’m a huge supporter of work-life balance at the workplace.

FJI: Any comments you would like to make about winning the CineAsia award?
HSL: I am deeply honored, especially if you consider the list of past recipients. Many thanks to CineAsia. I personally regard this as a reflection of the hard work of everyone working at UIP in the region, which in turn would not be possible without the strong support and guidance of the great teams at both Paramount and Universal.