Posts Tagged ‘Asian Cinema’

VarietyAsia shutters its doors

February 2, 2009

Received an email from the staff of VarietyAsia this morning announcing the indefinite suspension of their magazine.  They’re one of the more credible sources of media news updates in Asia, and closing the entire operation as part of cost-cutting measures seems to be really short-sighted.  JFK’s quote from his speech at the University of New Hampshire in 1960 is quite apt to describe the current situation:

In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters – one representing danger, and one representing opportunity. The danger now is clear. But this crisis also presents an opportunity – not only for India but for all the West. But if these opportunities are lost now, they may never come again.

Singapore #1 in Movie-going, #196 in Movie-making

December 11, 2008

A statistic that jumped out at me as I read a VarietyAsia article was that Singaporeans are number 1 in yet another category, this time in our movie-going frequency. The average Singaporean goes to the cinema 4 times a year. This doesn’t sound like much on the first read, but consider this: South Koreans, even with their thriving filmmaking industry that produced critical and commercial hits like OldBoy and My Sassy Girl, only venture to the cinemas 3.3 times a year, and for the Chinese, it’s once every ten years! A Chinese person going to the cinema is an even rarer event than the Olympics and World Cup!

So why are Singaporeans so obsessed with going to the cinema compared to our Asian peers? This is most typically explained with a shrug and an accompanying “nothing else to do in Singapore, wat” comment. Shuffling into a dark soundproof hall with crowds of other people might be the only escape one can get from the ubiquitous city. You’d think that a people so obsessed with movies should have a thriving local film industry, but alas, local films, aside from Jack Neo’s films (and maybe now Royston Tan’s) are the stragglers in this aspect. A vestige of Singapore’s colonial past is the (as a friend so eloquently put it) “ang moh is better” mindset that pervades the general population’s choices of entertainment. It’s like how Singaporeans are all die-hard Manchester United fans (“I supported them since 1992!” – as if that automatically confers English citizenship on them and makes them fans of grey skies and fish n’ chips).

I did a little back-of-the-envelope calculation about cinema revenues in Singapore, detailed below. I assumed that the average price of a ticket was $10, and that 40% of ticket holders buy a $4 popcorn and $3 soda from the concession stands. I consider this assumption to be fairly conservative – a distributor would be crazy not to push harder to sell their high-margin concession items.

Singapore’s population as of mid-2008:
4,839,000

x 4 trips / year

= 19.356 million tickets sold every year

x ($10 / ticket + 40% * $7 in concessions)

= ~$250 million industry

Which is kinda small. No wonder efforts to position Singapore as a media production hub faces many hurdles – why would they produce their film/show in Singapore studios when even if the government throws its weight behind it and encourages all local citizens to watch a made-in-Singapore production, they can barely turn a profit on the production costs? Singapore is no Australia.

Let’s say one day the Communist party manages to eradicate piracy and the Chinese start going to the cinema once a year to catch the blockbusters like The Dark Knight, how much would that be?

China’s population as of July 2007:
1,321,851,888

X 1 trip / year

X (S$10 / ticket + 40% * S$7 in concessions)

= ~$17 billion industry

$17 billion??? That’s not an industry, that’s an economy. Rather than converting Chinese movies like Infernal Affairs and converting them into Hollywood blockbusters, I’d do the reverse – take the best that Hollywood has to offer and tailor it for Chinese audiences.