Hong Kong Filmart: 5 Trends to Track at the Market

Hong Kong Filmart, Asia’s largest and longest-running content market, made a much-cheered return to physical form last year following a long, three-year absence throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2024, the emphasis will again be on regaining momentum, with organizer the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) expecting some 750 exhibitors from more than 25 countries, up about 7 percent from last year — but still down from the 888 exhibitors from 35 territories that attended in 2019. Buyers and sellers will also be hoping to ride the tailwind of Berlin’s European Film Market, which saw record attendance and a resurgence of indie dealmaking just three weeks ago.

Asia’s top sales agents typically hold back key titles from Berlin, or wait to close deals on their home turf at Filmart. Strong contingents from North America and Europe are making the trip to Hong Kong this year to buy and sell into and out of the region. The Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) is bringing a delegation of 11 exhibitors — including U.S. indie film world veterans AGC Studios, The Exchange, Lakeshore and Voltage Pictures — while 29 leading European film rights companies are making the journey. And for the first time since 2019, a cluster of U.K. companies will also be on the Filmart sales floor, notably Hanway Films, Altitude Film Sales and Kaleidoscope Film Distribution.

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At the kickoff of Filmart, which runs March 11-14 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, The Hollywood Reporter highlights five industry trends that will be driving both business and discussion on the market floor this year.

The Chinese Industry Perspective on AI and the Future of Streaming 

No speculative topic is generating more hand-wringing in the screen industries than the blistering pace of development in the field of artificial intelligence and the impact the technology may have on the careers and craft of content creators. The third edition of Filmart’s conference series EntertainmentPulse kicks off on Monday with a conversation delving headlong into the promise and challenges of the technology for the film and TV sector, featuring Zhu Liang, a vice president of leading Chinese streaming service iQIYI — which counts artificial intelligence leader Baidu as a major shareholder and strategic partner — and Fu Binxing, president of powerhouse Chinese studio Huace.

Japanese Content Boom 

After several decades of relative stasis, the Japanese live-action film and TV industry is having something of a moment — consider the recent worldwide success of Godzilla Minus One, FX’s Shogun, Netflix’s House of Ninjas and Max’s Tokyo Vice — while its anime industry’s already considerable global clout only continues to grow. For those seeking to forge ties with Tokyo power players, Unijapan will be returning to Filmart with a pavilion featuring several of Japan’s major studios, including Nikkatsu Corporation, Toei Video Company, Kadokawa, Gaga Corporation and Shochiku, among others.

Surging Southeast Asian Box Office Growth

While major theatrical markets like South Korea have struggled to get back on their feet in the wake of the pandemic, key territories in the growth region of Southeast Asia have staged impressive recoveries — ticket sales in Indonesia surged 15 percent last year, while Vietnam’s annual box office climbed to $150 million, down just 10 percent from 2019 — pointing to a future in which the region plays a bigger role on the global box-office map. Buyers from Southeast Asia will be well represented at Filmart this year, with a pavilion hosted by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) returning for the first time since 2019, along with large delegations from Thailand and Indonesia.

Can Chinese Film Go Global? 

Over the past decade, China’s film regulators’ long-running strategy of leveraging Hollywood movie product and know-how to help build out their domestic industry has gone stunningly to plan. Whereas U.S. movies once claimed as much as half of China’s annual box office revenue, now that Chinese tentpoles have significantly improved in storytelling polish and production values, Hollywood filmmaking’s appeal in the market has dwindled dramatically — U.S. movies had a share of less than 15 percent last year. One priority China’s state-directed industry has yet to achieve, however, is market reach and influence abroad. While the typical Hollywood blockbuster tends to make well over 50 percent of its sales outside North America, China’s biggest hits consistently earn a pittance outside the mainland. On Wednesday, EntertainmentPulse will host a keynote discussion on the globalization of the Chinese entertainment industry, with an emphasis on the various strategies companies from the country can take in a “a bid to raise their soft power.” Speakers include Li Jie, president of Alibaba Pictures; Ying Xujun, president of the state-backed CMC Pictures; and Yang Le, CEO of Dongyang Huanyu Entertainment.

Expanding International Funding Opportunities

Once a hotbed of endemic creativity and consumption, the Hong Kong industry increasingly sees its future in a collaborative ethos overseas. Various new funding and industry support schemes have begun to supplement the city’s popular Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), one of Asia’s oldest and most successful project markets. The Hong Kong-Europe-Asian Film Collaboration Funding Scheme — unveiled at the recent Berlin Film Festival — aims to turbocharge international collaboration and elevate Hong Kong cinema worldwide by connecting Hong Kong directors with their European peers. Alongside Filmart, HAF has partnered with Hollywood power agency CAA to launch the all-new funding scheme, HKIFF Industry-CAA China Genre Initiative, or HCC, which will offer awards that “support and facilitate the growth and progress of Chinese-language genre projects.”

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