Buyer numbers rocketed at leading Hong Kong film event Filmart which closed today (June 30), a surge pundits say highlights the recovery of the local film and TV sector.

At the end of the three-day market, Filmart had registered more than 1,120 buyers, a record for the four-year-old event. Original predictions reckoned on 700.

Exhibitor numbers also swelled, with 107 registered this year, up 30% on 1999. A record 221 buyers and 32 exhibitors were from mainland China.

The upswing comes as 150 films are expected to be produced this year, compared to 90 films produced between 1998-99. As of May 28, the Trade Development Council reported that $18.5m (HK$144m) had already been invested in 62 films.

"The local film industry is reviving," said Carrie Yau, Secretary for Information Technology & Broadcasting (designate).

One key issue of debate at the event was China's entrance into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Speakers at a seminar discussing the effect of WTO membership on China's film and TV market argued that membership would bring more opportunities.

But panellist Jin Da, vice president of Shanghai Paradise Film and TV, cautioned that China should examine its policies on openness and flexibility. Tse Siu-lung, supervisor of Hua Wen Film and Video, felt that WTO membership would expose China to "the outside world," in turn opening more markets.

"Co-productions would help China produce better quality [product]," he said. "The rest of the world is becoming a global village and China needs to follow."