Looking Back on CineAsia 2017

Croak

Year after year, CineAsia confirms its traction in line with the momentum of the region’s theatrical exhibition industry. The 2017 edition welcomed more than 2,100 participants, a 15 percent increase over the previous year, a statistic brought to life by four days of packed auditoriums, engaging discussions, and a busy trade show floor. The show had a slightly more global feel than usual, as the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre welcomed members from the Global Cinema Federation for the first time.

MPAA head Charles Rivkin kicked off the convention with an address that highlighted the growth in the region. Rivkin’s message emphasized the “bright future of cinema,” provided that content creators and exhibition recognize their need for each other, and that the relationship between exhibition and distribution continues to be “a symbiotic one.”

Won Chun Cha, CEO of South Korea’s Lotte Cinema, received the event’s Special Achievement Award for the circuit’s innovation and expansion in the region. Lotte is the theatrical exhibition arm of a global Korean conglomerate that operates in 20 countries across 90 different business lines, generating revenues of $85 billion. The circuit’s flagship location, Seoul World Tower, is among the country’s most impressive, boasting 21 screens, 4,609 seats, and over $25 million in box office in 2017 with more than 3 million tickets sold. Lotte’s footprint in Asia includes 818 screens across 115 locations in South Korea, 141 screens across 31 locations in Vietnam, and 91 screens across 12 locations in China. Lotte made headlines in recent months by becoming the first exhibitor to install two Samsung’s Cinema Screens, the HDR LED theater displays that were first introduced to exhibition at CinemaCon 2017.

South Korea’s other leader in global exhibition didn’t go unnoticed either. CJ 4DPlex, the cinema technology arm of CJ CG V, provided updated statistics on the expansion of their immersive seating offering, 4DX, and panoramic screen format, ScreenX. 4DX announced a new partnership with Malaysia’s Golden Screen Cinemas at CineAsia, as well as the signing of a strategic deal with PVR Cinemas that will bring 16 additional immersive seating–equipped auditoriums to the Indian circuit. ScreenX finished the year by doubling its number of worldwide locations, hitting a benchmark of 128 sites. “This year, we made significant progress with Hollywood studios that led to an exciting lineup as well as global expansion opportunities. Moving forward, we will accelerate the pace of our growth to increase our reach around the world, as well as expand our film lineup even further,” said Byung Hwan Choi, CEO of CJ 4DPLEX, in a press release. The company expects ScreenX to cross 250 screens in 2018.

Ajay Bigli, chief executive officer of India’s PVR Cinemas, received the award for Exhibitor of the Year at CineAsia. 2017 was a special year for the circuit, marking the 20th anniversary of the opening of their first multiplex. In a conversation with Boxoffice, Bijli and PVR Chief Strategy Officer Kamal Gianchandani expressed confidence in their circuit’s ability to provide a variety of premium offerings and affordable options across their locations. According to the executives, PVR is taking a cautious approach to international expansion, as they believe there is still room to grow in India—a market that Bijli considers to be underequipped with cinema screens. That isn’t to say PVR is entirely closed off to foreign investments. The company will soon be unveiling a project in Sri Lanka and recently invested in U.S. luxury circuit iPic Theatres. The executives believe there is much innovation left in India, highlighting the role of third-party digital ticketing companies like BookMyShow and PayTM, but expressed doubt as to the implementation of subscription models in the market, saying the market is not yet ready for the concept.

Technology was another major topic at CineAsia 2017. Leading technology providers announced ties with Chinese companies leading up to the event: Arts Alliance Media’s acquisition by Luxin-Rio, Barco’s joint venture China Film Group, and THX’s sound certification program for the country’s theaters. GDC stood out at the trade show floor with a booth that featured the technical infrastructure of a 14-plex theater. The company has been making continued strides with its immersive sound solution, which saw 39 percent growth in 2017 and expanded its global presence to over 750 installed and committed screens. For its part, Barco left the convention being named the Technology Innovator of the year.

A busy week came to a close with a major story on its final day. Rumors had been swirling for weeks about a possible acquisition of Fox’s film assets by The Walt Disney Company. By Thursday, speculation turned to fact: a $52 billion deal for Fox’s film business and select cable TV properties, pending regulatory approvals. The final major convention of the year ended on that intriguing note, yet another major M&A deal as both exhibition and distribution live through an era of global consolidation. It left many of the attendees wondering aloud, what surprises will 2018 bring?