This year, many Asian sellers decided to skip Berlin's European Film Market in February and focus on the Hong Kong event (March 20-23) instead - a telling sign that the Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (Filmart) is raising its international profile.
Indeed it looks like not one but two markets are filling the gap that opened up two years ago between the AFM and Cannes - one with a higher concentration of Asian buyers and sellers and the other more skewed towards Europe. Where you go depends on what you want to buy or who you want to sell to.
'Filmart's timing works for us in the run-up to Cannes and the weather at this time of year is better for visitors,' says Gordon Cheung, executive vice-president, acquisitions & distribution, at Hong Kong's Celestial Pictures. 'Berlin is still really a European market and clashes with Chinese New Year. Also more US and European buyers are coming to Hong Kong.'
Filmart has been growing rapidly since it changed timing from a June to March slot in 2005 and joined forces with Hong Kong's other film-related events under the Entertainment Expo banner. Last year, the number of sellers was up by 15% to 407 while buyers and other visitors numbered around 3,700. This year, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), which organises Filmart, is expecting 450 exhibitors from 30 countries and around 4,000 visitors.
While the major strength of the Hong Kong event is as a place to source Asian product, it is also attracting more US and European sellers - particularly through the country pavilions hosted by the UK Film Council, Unifrance and German Film Service & Marketing.
'Filmart is useful because it allows us to conclude deals we started discussing in Berlin and catch up with Asian buyers who didn't attend the European Film Market,' says Celluloid Dreams vice-president, Asian acquisitions & sales, Chinlin Hsieh. 'Also we can pre-sell films that will be ready for Cannes, which is the most hectic market. Mipcom used to play this role but now there's also Filmart.'
Other European sales companies expected in Hong Kong include Capitol Films, Filmax and HanWay along with US sellers such as First Look International, Lionsgate and Myriad Pictures. High-profile distributors set to attend include EuropaCorp, Pathe and Tartan along with US buyers such as Focus, Magnolia, New Line, Picturehouse and Paramount Vantage.
Several other markets in Asia are vying to become the region's major film-trading hub. The most serious contender is the Pusan International Film Festival's Asian Film Market which held its inaugural edition last October. Although the two events are held seven months apart, there is probably only room for one Asian market to take a place alongside the AFM and Cannes as an unmissable international fixture.
Meanwhile, the Shanghai International Film Festival (June 16-24) recently got in on the act by announcing that from this year its existing TV-focused market will be upgraded to a 'Film Mart' aimed at stimulating co-productions between China and other territories.
Although Filmart probably has nothing to worry about in the short term - the Hong Kong market is a more user-friendly gateway to China than the Shanghai festival - it will need to keep innovating to stay ahead of the competition.
Filmart's major aims are to promote Hong Kong as a regional hub and also to promote cross-media partnerships. As a result, it is much broader than Pusan's film market, also encompassing TV, CGI and animation, post-production services, equipment and locations. The buying and selling of feature films could potentially be sidelined, while Pusan is one of world cinema's most prestigious platforms.
However, Filmart's organisers are aware of this and are building on their relationship with the Hong Kong International Film Festival to reinforce the market's status as a showcase for film. One of their first steps is the creation of the Hong Kong Asia Screenings, designed to provide market access to up-and-coming Asian directors.
This year's Filmart will host two new thematic pavilions - TV World and Locations World - as part of its drive to become the leading cross-media trading platform in the region.
Almost 40 film commissions, from the US, Europe, Asia Pacific and other regions, are expected to attend Locations World, which is co-organised by the TDC and the Hong Kong government's Film Services Office. The showcase will also promote Hong Kong as an international location.
TV World will feature 54 companies from 12 countries including Spain's Filmax International, Korea's MBC and large delegations from China and Hong Kong.
Tuesday, March 20
Seminar on film financing (10:00-12:00)
TV World opening forum (14:00-16:30)
Entertainment Expo HK gala opening (17:30-19:00)
Asian Film Awards by Hkiff (19:00-20:30)
Hkiff opening film: I'm A Cyborg, But That's OK (19:15-21:00)
Wednesday, March 21
Seminar on talent management (10:00-12:00)
Hong Kong Music Fair opening ceremony (12:00)
Launch ceremony of Big Media Group (16:30)
Locations World cocktail reception (18:00-20:00)
French gala premiere: Arthur And The Invisibles (20:00-22:00)
The French Soiree (22:00 until late)
Thursday, March 22
Digital Entertainment World Forum (10:00-12:00)
HAF awards presentation (17:00-18:00)
Hkiff public screenings: Bubble Fiction: Boom Or Bust (19:00-21:00)
Hkiff public screenings: Bugmaster (21:45-00:00)
Friday, March 23
Charity premiere: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (18:00-21:30)