Hello to good buys

The Asian Film Market, which kicks off today, isn’t boasting headline-grabbing increases in participants or movies for sale.

Instead, specialist movie buyers and sellers arriving Sunday in Pusan have been greeted with calls for a long-term approach to building a regional movie marketplace.

The shrinking Pusan market is clear evidence of the difficulties that local sales companies have endured over the last year as the “Korean Wave” has slowed, production has dipped and straightforward exports have crashed by more than 50%.

But organizers say that the market is an integral part of the festival activities and is not going away any time soon.

“The Pusan festival needs its market,” said market spokesperson Janice Chung. “The festival would not be fulfilling its role properly if it limited its activities to just being a window on Asian cinema. It needs to participate in promoting new talent, helping it finance and sell its movies.”

The market, which occupies the top five floors of Busan’s Grand Hotel, counts an almost exactly identical number of participants as last year, some 1,100 excluding those registered through its accompanying Bifcom locations promo event.

The number of hotel rooms hired by sales companies has shaded lower at 58, though the total number of companies registered as sellers is little changed (160) when those sharing booths and using umbrella stands are factored in. Umbrella operations include those operated by the Indonesian Film and TV Producers’ org, the Vietnam Media Corp., Taiwan’s Government Info Office, Singapore’s Media Development Authority, the U.K. Film Council and European Film Promotion.

Market screenings have tumbled to 68 — each movie screening just once — for the 350 execs registered as buyers. There are a further 50 press screenings that buyers can also access.

While the organized sales market is struggling to catch fire — it faces competition from Tokyo’s reviving Tiffcom, Toronto, this week’s Mipcom and next month’s American Film Market — parts of the Asian industry are becoming more collaborative, even in cases where movies do not access formal co-production treaties. Feng Xiaogang’s fest opener “Assembly” was made in China, boasted Japanese coin and Korean tech expertise.

Korean onscreen talent now regularly features in film and TV in China, Hong Kong and Japan, while Japanese stars especially are increasingly cast in Korean TV dramas.

“(Pusan) spent a lot of time researching the trends in the Asian industry and decided to expand the scope of its activities,” Chung said. “The first steps were the launch of the market and Star Summit Asia last year. This year it is the debut of Co-ProductionPRO.”

Running for three days in the Grand’s Emerald Hall, CPP is the grown-up equivalent of the festival’s successful PPP project market, which this year celebrates its 10th frame.

Asia’s top filmmakers including Hou Hsiao Hsien and Zhang Yuan, will publicly pitch their big-budget movie projects to financiers, distribbers and sales agents. Coming from the funding side, investment companies including Japanese giant Avex, the U.S.’s Endgame Entertainment, Korea’s CJ Entertainment and Hong Kong-Chinese newcomer JA Media will all make investor presentations.

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