For all the enthusiastic efforts of its organisers, FilMart, Hong Kong's annual film and television programmes market continues to fight for its place in the calendar. The fifth edition of FilMart, ended on Friday with a whimper, rather than a bang.
"This year, 130 film and TV companies from 17 countries and regions are taking part, with a 20% increase in the number of exhibitors over last year," said Peter Woo, chairman of the Trade Development Council (TDC), the show's organising body. But attendance at the three day event (27-29 June) was looking decidedly thin on the last afternoon as many delegates either sloped off to do a spot of shopping or headed out for more private meetings. "Being the largest film event in Asia, our ambition is for this annual gathering to become the premier international marketplace for film in our time zone," said Woo.
"It is right that Hong Kong as centre of Asia's film industry has a convention and meeting point. But whether it is FilMart or the Hong Kong Festival has yet to be seen," said Paul Yi, president and CEO of new Korean sales company E Pictures. "For sellers there are too few buyers, for buyers not enough product."
Although FilMart should on paper have benefited from the recent demise of MIP Asia, it still felt the need to underwrite the costs of buyers attending. "It is difficult to get people in town for a three day event," said one seller. Those distributors who did attend - chiefly from Southeast Asia, Japan and Korea, but also from India, the US, France, Chile, and the UK - found only 30 screenings of theatrical product and a market space increasingly dominated by TV fare. But in that category the representation from mainland China was impressive.
The perception remained that this was a market for local Hong Kong pictures. Jo Young Seok, CEO of Korean home entertainment outfit Atlanta Contents Group, said: "it is difficult to make money theatrically or even on DVD with Hong Kong movies. Video maybe."
But not everyone was so cool. Ida Martens of Germany's Media Luna, which was exhibiting for the first time, said: "we've had a great time and will definitely be back next year. We've done plenty of deals here that we did not expect to." Martens who began carrying Asian films, notably from Japan's Suncent, added: "It definitely helped to have a mixture of Asian films and Western ones and a range of genres."
Several of the leading Hong Kong companies, including China Star, Emperor Multimedia Group and Media Asia, chose not to take stands and operated out of their offices instead. But sellers and producers were taking the event seriously enough to host a series of parties, dinners and technical presentations.