6 March 2015
Film Entertainment Industry in Hong Kong
- Hong Kong has one of the largest and most dynamic film entertainment industries in the world. As one of the world's largest film and television content exporters, Hong Kong has captured a fair share of the regional market. The boom in Asian cable and satellite channels over the past decade, along with the prevalence of mobile viewing platforms more recently, has also provided a ready market for content producers.
- Hong Kong's films have gained increasing recognition from the international film industry. Apart from buying rights for theatrical distribution, Hollywood is also interested in acquiring rights to remake Hong Kong movies. Hong Kong film talent and professionals have managed to make their names known in both Eastern and Western movie market.
- In support of the development of the local film industry, the Hong Kong government announced at the 2015 Budget an additional fund infusion to the Film Development Fund and other stimulating measures.
- Hong Kong's audio-visual services industry has preferential access to the huge Chinese mainland media entertainment market under CEPA, with quota free access to the Chinese mainland of Hong Kong-produced Chinese language films. Hong Kong-mainland co-produced films and television programmes are treated as mainland productions after receiving approval from mainland authorities. The latest subsidiary agreement under CEPA contains no new liberalisation measure for the audio-visual services sector.
Most local film companies deal directly with cinema chains for local screening on a revenue-sharing basis. Rights will then be sold to distribution companies for other forms of release, including video rental and sales, and television broadcasting. There are also companies which specialize in distributing foreign films in Hong Kong.
The film industry is represented by several industry associations, including the Movie Producers and Distributors Association of Hong Kong Ltd (MPDA), the Motion Picture Industry Association (MPIA), the Hong Kong Film Directors’ Guild (HKFDG), and the Hong Kong Screenwriters’ Guild (HKSWG).
Industry Development and Market Outlook
As of February 2015, there were 47 cinemas in Hong Kong. Films are mainly released through channels such as United Artists, Broadway Circuit, the MCL Circuit, the AMC Circuit, Golden Harvest and Newport Circuit. Other movie distribution channels include selling of film DVDs and CDs, and broadcasting by local free televisions, pay televisions, subscription satellite services and online platforms such as Amazon, iTunes and Google Play.
Hong Kong is among the world's largest film exporters. In 2013, 43 locally produced films were released, with about HK$412 million worth of audio-visual exports in the form of videotapes, DVDs and other compact discs. Hong Kong's film industry as a whole is reliant on overseas revenues, given the limited size of the domestic market. Asia accounts for the majority of the foreign sales income. In recent years, the Chinese mainland has become a vital market for Hong Kong movies.
Nowadays, an increasing number of movies have been co-produced by Hong Kong and mainland film production companies. Thanks to such cooperation, many good-quality films earning acclaims have been produced. For example, The Grandmaster won the Best Costume Designer in the 8th Asian Film Awards (AFA) and the Best Cinematography of the 56th Asian Pacific Film Festival (APFF). Also, The Monkey King was among the top three movies on the mainland in 2014, with the mainland box office receipts exceeding US$167 million.
Hong Kong's films have gained increasing recognition from the international film industry over the years. For example, in 2013, The Way We Dance received the Fukuoka Audience award at the Focus on Asia International Film Festival Fukuoka 2013. In 2014, Ann Hui won the Best Director award at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival with her film The Golden Era.
Apart from buying rights for theatrical distribution, Hollywood is also interested in acquiring rights to remake Hong Kong movies. For example, Hollywood's The Departed, which won four Oscar awards in 2007, was the remake of a 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. In 2008, Hollywood's The Eye was also a remake based on a 2002 film Gin Gwai directed by Hong Kong's Pang Brothers. Korean film Mujeogja was a remake of Hong Kong gangster film A Better Tomorrow in 2010.
Hong Kong has a unique advantage in bridging the Chinese mainland with the Western audiences and opening a window on the world for Chinese audience. Hong Kong film talents and professionals have managed to make their names known in both Eastern and Western movie market. For example, Ann Hui also won the Lifetime Achievement Award of the 6th AFA. In Hollywood, Yuen Woo Ping is one of the best known and Chinese martial arts movie choreographers because of his involvement in Matrix. John Woo, Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Cory Yuen, Sammo Hung and Ronny Yu are just some of the Hong Kong names that have managed to successfully straddle both Eastern and Western markets. For instance, the box office of The Grandmaster reached US$6.5 million in the North America market.
While major film companies have their own distribution departments, smaller independent filmmakers usually rely on distribution companies to sell their films in overseas markets. Key channels for international distribution are the three main film markets in Los Angeles, Cannes and Berlin, where producers, distributors and buyers meet to initiate deals for the distribution of films. Hong Kong has hosted an annual film market since 1997 to promote Hong Kong as a film distribution centre in the region. In 2014, FILMART attracted 772 exhibitors from 32 countries and regions, and 6,753 visitors from 51 countries and regions.
FILMART (Hong Kong), Marche Du Film (Cannes) and American Film Market (the US) have been chosen by film industry players as the top three most important global film events. FILMART is now the largest film and TV market event in Asia.
Hong Kong acts as the hub of buying and selling Chinese mainland films and TV dramas through FILMART and it is increasingly seen as a remarkable platform to explore co-production in Asia. In 2014, there were over 150 Chinese exhibitors at FILMART.
Hong Kong is also a popular place for overseas crews shooting commercial films, TV programmes and advertisements. In recent years, feature films from various countries that have made Hong Kong their filming locations included Transformer: Age of Extinction (US) and The Suspect (Korea). For TV programmes, Cesar to the Rescue (US) and Asia’s Got Talent (Singapore) were filmed in Hong Kong as well.
Hong Kong TV companies derive a substantial portion of their revenue from overseas markets, targeting primarily Chinese-speaking populations. In addition, some programmes are dubbed into other languages to target the non-Chinese-speaking audience. Hong Kong's television broadcasters sell their products using the following methods: programme licensing, pre-packaged programme content and subscription fees, with satellite distribution and landing rights now becoming an increasingly important source of revenue.
Recently, mobile viewing platforms have emerged to be an important distribution channel of TV programmes in Hong Kong. For example, most of the latest programmes produced by Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) are available on their mobile application platform “myTV”. In November 2014, Hong Kong Television Network Limited (HKTV) started distributing their programmes through the internet, which can be accessed by various devices including mobile phones and tablets.
China has the largest television market in the world. With a surge in TV and cable channels, the mainland's demand for quality programme content is huge. Landing rights have been granted to Hong Kong's TV broadcasters to provide TV entertainment to millions of homes in Guangdong, and much wider access of mainland-Hong Kong co-produced television programmes are provided under CEPA. Hong Kong's TV industry is expected to greatly benefit from more opportunities from the mainland.
Supports to the film industry
In support of the local film industry, the Hong Kong government has established the Film Development Council (HKFDC) and Create Hong Kong within the Commerce and Economic Bureau. At the 2015 Budget, the government announced an addition fund infusion of HK$200 million to the Film Development Fund (administered by the Secretariat of the HKFDC). The First Feature Film Initiative will be re-launched, with the aim of supporting up-and-coming directors and production teams to create their first feature films.
As of end-January 2015, 48 out of 79 applications were approved with a total funding of about HK$135.4 million, since the launch of the Film Development Fund Scheme for Financing Film Production in October 2007.
Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA)
Existing CEPA provisions include significant market liberalisation measures for Hong Kong's audio-visual services industry, including the production of television drama programmes. As at end-January 2015, the Hong Kong government had granted Hong Kong service suppliers (HKSS) certificates to 69 audio-visual service companies.
CEPA relaxes the scope for Hong Kong companies operating wholly-owned units in respect of business of cinema construction and renovation, allowing them to construct or renovate more than one cinema theatre at more than one location for film-screening business. Many Hong Kong companies have set up cinemas, including flagship multiplex cinemas, in various mainland cities.
Under CEPA, Chinese language films produced by Hong Kong companies approved by Chinese mainland authorities are not subject to the import quota set for foreign films. In addition, films co-produced by Hong Kong and the mainland are treated as mainland productions.
Under Supplement IV to CEPA, which took effect from January 2008, any proposal of mainland-Hong Kong television drama co-production, the minimum number of words in Chinese contained in the synopsis of each episode is revised down from 5,000 to 1,500. This measure helps save the administrative cost and time of the involved production companies, giving them enhanced flexibility while streamlining the production process.
Under Supplement VI to CEPA, Hong Kong service providers are allowed to provide videos and sound recording (including motion picture products) distribution services on the Chinese mainland in the form of wholly-owned operations.
Supplement VII to CEPA allows HKSS to establish wholly-owned or joint-venture enterprises to produce video and sound recording products. The new measure has taken effect since 1 January 2011.
Under Supplement X to CEPA, which took effect from January 2014, HKSS are allowed to employ contractual service suppliers to engage in motion picture or videotape production and distribution services in the mode of movement of natural persons on the mainland, under the specific liberalisation commitments of this sector or sub-sector (including services under this sector or sub-sector).
There was no further liberalisation measure for the audio-visual services sector under the Agreement between the Mainland and Hong Kong on Achieving Basic Liberalisation of Trade in Services in Guangdong (“Guangdong Agreement”) announced in December 2014. The Guangdong Agreement generally adopts a new, negative listing approach towards liberalisation measures, unlike the positive listings as shown in the table below.
|Current Scope of Access||Access for Hong Kong under CEPA|
*The production company in Hong Kong must be a leading producer and contribute at least 50% of the invested budget of the film.