CineAsia gets underway

MUMBAI: With a focus on multiplex development and the rollout of d-cinema systems in the mainland China market, which is currently enjoying 40 per cent box-office growth, the CineAsia distribution and exhibition conference got going in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

On an average, at least one new screen is being opened every day in China.

Rance Pow, president of theatrical consultancy Artisan Gateway, gave a visual depiction of the way that multiplexes are mushrooming across the country - 90 cinemas with 386 screens have opened so far this year - and argued that there is still plenty of room for further growth.

According to Pow, China currently has 1,635 cinemas with 4,483 screens, which is estimated to grow to 2,000 cinemas with 6,000 screens by the end of 2010. In comparison, the North America market, with a fraction of China‘s population, has around 5,400 cinemas with 39,000 screens.

Delegates also heard about the impressive rollout of d-cinema and 3D systems in mainland China, which is now the world‘s second biggest territory in terms of digital screens.
The rollout has been driven by the Chinese government that provides subsidies and other forms of support to help cinemas upgrade. As a result, local players such as Time Antaeus - a real estate turned exhibition company - have been encouraged to join the fray. Time Antaeus has already deployed 895 DCI-compliant screens across China and aims to hit 2,000 by the end of 2010.

According to Yang Buting, chairman of China Film Distribution and Exhibition Association, China now has 1,388 2K D-cinema screens of which around 500 can play 3D. By November 2009, a total of 102 movies had been released in digital formats, grossing a combined $167m (RMB1.14bn), compared to 62 digital titles grossing $76m (RMB520m) in 2008.

The growth in traditional and d-cinema screens is having a direct impact on the mainland box office, which is on course to hit $882.4m by the end of 2009, a 40 per cent increase on the $635.5 haul in 2008. As of the end of November, with the normally lucrative month of December yet to come, box office had already reached $755.3m.

In addition to new cinemas, growth is also due to a strong line-up of Chinese movies and the fact that the Chinese authorities are allowing big-ticket US movies, such as Transformers 2 and 2012, for exhibition.

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