Thailand ponders film incentives

Columns

Thailand ponders film incentives
Back in July, the Thai Cabinet passed a resolution asking the Ministry of Tourism and Sports to present a white paper on Thailand as a competitive location destination for film shoots. For years, the Thailand Film Office had been requesting the Revenue Department to develop fiscal incentives in line with what other countries were offering to attract film shoots to the kingdom. The Revenue Department presently requires foreign production companies to pay VAT and income tax on productions shot here, while Thailand has no bilateral audiovisual treaties in place.

In 2007, the film sector is said to have generated nearly US$86.33 million, which industry players say can grow tenfold if incentives are offered.

Santa Pestonji, topper of Santa International Film Prods., who has worked on such international film projects as Tomorrow Never Dies, Heaven and Earth, Alexander, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Good Morning, Vietnam, contends, "Incentives, particularly tax holidays for movie stars and the exemption from value-added tax, would instantly attract more foreign filmmakers to Thailand." He cites New Zealand as an example of a country that has benefited from film shoots, noting that government incentives helped lead to the productions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Last Samurai.

Lately, the country has been gearing itself up for an increasing number of productions from different parts of the world, including India.

The Thai private-sector Film Production Services Association (FPSA) was tasked with development of the white paper for the Film Office. Due in mid-November 2008, the paper will hopefully give the Film Office the ammunition necessary to have Parliament add to the Film Act provisions for VAT and income tax withholdings from foreign film shoots, along with setting up filming "free trade" centers within the country. The paper will also call for Thailand to be more aggressive in establishing bilateral audiovisual treaties. We will keep you informed.

Asian releases exceed 5,000
The other day, we were looking for the number of Motion Picture Association and independent releases here in Asia in 2007. Unfortunately, there is no one place to go to, so we turned to our friends at MPA Asia.

The head of the office here in Asia, Mike Ellis, directed me to Ed Neubronner, who said, "We don’t have a figure for the number of film releases in all of Asia. Based on estimates using a combination of BORIS and Screen Digest data, the estimated total of film releases (local and foreign) across Asia-Pacific in 2007 is approximately 5,250. Nearly half of those releases are in the markets of India and Japan. This, however, is not an official stat that we track."

So there you have it: Last year, approximately 5,250 films were released in Asia (in case anybody asks).

Digital IMAX coming to Hong Kong
UA Cinemas announced a late 2009 opening for its new five-plex at iSQUARE in Tsimshatsui, including Hong Kong's second IMAX Theatre. Covering more than 46,000 square feet, the complex will include two conventional auditoriums, two VIP houses and a 900-seat digital IMAX theatre. This will be the first digital IMAX location in Hong Kong.
UA Cinemas was introduced to Hong Kong by the Lark Group in 1985 with the opening of UA Shatin, Hong Kong’s first-ever U.S.-style multiplex. Today, UA operates eight premier cinemas with 38 auditoriums in prime locations in Hong Kong.

Myanmar film company seeks equipment
Moe Kaung Kin Film in Myanmar (Burma) is looking to buy new and used projectors, solar cells, Xenon lamps and other equipment. Please contact them directly at motherhome at uk2 dot net for details.

Iran and Israel share a prize
Here’s an anecdote from Israeli filmmaker Dan Walman, who recently served as chairman of the jury at the Seventh Third Eye Asian Mumbai International Film Festival.

The jury, which also included Indian filmmaker Manju Borah and Sri Lankan director Somaratne Dissanyake, decided to split the first prize between Pourya Azarbayjani's Iranian entry Unfinished Stories and Dror Zehavi's Israeli film For My Father.

During the awards ceremony, Walman announced, "The jury has decided to split the first prize between Iran and Israel... Is that possible? In the film world, yes! Both films share a great humanism and love of mankind.”

Walman added, "I am an Israeli and I'm married to Shoshana, who is a Teheran-born Iranian. We two share the same prize—our children... If I were to give advice to the leaders of our two countries—learn from us—we two enjoy fighting from time to time, but we live together and respect one another."

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 at gmail dot com.