The Hong Kong Film Development Council (FDC) has introduced a package of measures to support Hong Kong films, including greater access to the Cantonese-speaking market in neighbouring Guangdong Province.

The FDC has worked with mainland authorities to revise the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between China and Hong Kong.

Under the new rules, Hong Kong films can be released in mainland China’s Guangdong Province outside of the quota and with a maximum 25% share of box office takings.

The FDC has also introduced a scheme to support the distribution and publicity of Hong Kong films in Guangdong, under which each film will receive $32,000 (HK$250,000) on a reimbursable basis towards its p&a costs.

The scheme is aimed at the Cantonese version of Hong Kong films and addresses concerns that local producers are moving towards Mandarin which is the most widely spoken dialect in China. Guangdong, which is mostly Cantonese-speaking, is relatively affluent and has a population of more than 100 million.

“No matter if it is a Hong Kong movie or a Hong Kong-Mainland film co-production, film distribution is of paramount importance and the huge film market of the mainland is not to be overlooked,” said FDC chairman Jack So.

The FDC has also raised the upper limits of government funding under its Film Development Fund (FDF). For a film by an up-and-coming director partnering with an experienced producer, and with a budget of not more than $1.3m (HK$10m), the upper ceiling of government finance will raise from 35% to 40% of the budget.

The number of applications under the fund is growing, with nine received in the first half of this year, compared to five and three in the first six months of 2011 and 2010. Since the fund was established in 2007, it has allocated more than $24.9m (HK$193m), including $7.7m (HK$60m) towards 23 movies. The remaining funds went towards film-related projects.

Jack So said that in the first half of 2012, there were 31 film productions in Hong Kong, comprising 19 Hong Kong films and 12 Hong Kong-China co-productions. He expects that there will be around 60 movies produced in Hong Kong by the end of the year.