Thai Government eyes new film incentives

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Despite the political shenanigans that have transpired in Thailand over the last few months, the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva seems to be committed to the film industry and has instructed all branches of the government, most particularly the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports under whom the Thailand Film Office resides, to come up with specific recommendations for incentives to attract foreign filmmakers to lens in Thailand.

As it is, the following incentives are offered in countries around Asia:
China: 10% income-tax waiver
Korea: 25% government support for filming in Seoul; free air ticket and hotel accommodation in Seoul; waiver of work permit application for foreign crew
Indonesia: tax waiver for foreign talent and crew
India: tax refund for any foreign film that is shot entirely in India
Malaysia: tax waiver for foreign talent and crew
Taiwan: up to 20% government funding for foreign film spend
Australia: 40% total discount for foreign filmmakers and Australian co-producers

Thailand presently only offers a reduction from 32% to 10% income tax on foreign actors’ salaries—not much of an incentive.

But, according to Dr. Seksan Narkwong, the new Director General of the Tourism Development section of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, in charge of the Thailand Film Office, this situation will change shortly as the Thai government phases in a refund on VAT (value-added tax), waives the foreign talent income tax and offers tax rebates.
To this end, Dr. Seksan's office held a seminar for companies in the production services industry on May 5, soliciting the private sector's opinion and asking for their understanding and support.

"The government of Thailand has already agreed to support of the film industry and they will fast-track implementation," said Dr. Narkwong. “We should see organic laws in place within a year."

Narkwong, who previously was Inspector General for the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, had the opportunity to travel the width and breadth of Thailand and is enthusiastic about Thailand's inventory of locations that would have appeal to foreign filmmakers. "Everything from sci-fi ‘moonscapes’ and prehistoric dinosaur caves and rock carvings to our famous beaches, modern cities and tropical rainforests…Thailand has a wealth of locations to shoot and stories to tell," Narkwong declared.

According to the Thailand Film Office, in 2008 international film location revenue increased approximately 88% over the same period in 2007 (US $57.8 million vs. $30.63 million).
"The good thing about revenue obtained through film shoots is that it largely goes directly into the grass-roots economy," said Dr. Narkwong.

The Thai Film Production Services Association (FIPSA) estimates real income into the economy at approximately $88 million when you factor in grass-roots services like food bought in local markets, local transport on boats and non-registered vehicles, local labor (construction), etc.

FJI will continue to watch as the Thai government begins to roll out specific incentives for filming on location in Thailand.

Italy Salutes Boxer Director
Congratulations to Singapore/Thai director Ekachai Uekrongtham (Beautiful Boxer, The Coffin), who was decorated with the "Cavallere dell'Ordine della Stella della Solidarieta Italiana" by the Italian Government at an award ceremony in Bangkok on May 6.

Indian Plexes Cut Ticket Prices
As the economic slowdown takes hold here in Asia, Indian multiplex operators are reducing ticket prices 20 to 50% to counter low occupancy figures and the current lack of high-profile films.

PVR Cinemas is now charging between $1.40 and $4.90 per ticket, which is a reduction of around $1 per screening. At the chain's PVR Lower Parel cinema in Mumbai, afternoon shows are priced at $1.90 to $2.90 compared to $2.90 to $3.90 previously.

The last two big Hindi film releases—Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Ghajini—opened in December 2008. Since then there have been no tentpole releases, barring Warner Bros.’ Chandni Chowk To China in January, which performed below expectation.

Big Cinemas COO Tushar Dingra told Screen Daily that cinema-going is still the preferred out-of-home entertainment option and that the lack of product and lower pricing is normal for this time of year.

"I won't say movies are recession-proof but recession-resistant," Dingra maintained. "In terms of pricing, we have a blockbuster ticketing strategy and a normal film strategy. We had raised prices in December for the two big releases, so prices today reflect normal pricing. As for the lack of big films at this time, I would say it is seasonal and the normal pattern for quarter four."
Adding to the recessionary woes, producers and distributors are locked in a battle with exhibitors over revenue-sharing terms. The Producers Guild declared a strike April 4, after which no cinema releases were planned until a resolution was reached.
As of our press deadline, no resolution had been announced.

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.