As Asian movie industry flourishes, industry looks to region for tie-ups


With box office takings in Asia growing faster than anywhere else in the world, more studios from Hollywood and beyond are seeking local partners to tap into the region, industry players say.

Many co-productions are visible at the 18th Busan International Film Festival that opened Thursday in South Korea, featuring a series of events aimed at facilitating cross-border deals.

U.S. producer and studio executive Harvey Weinstein is among the major players involved in Asian projects, having picked up international rights for the hit South Korean sci-fi thriller “Snowpiercer,” which boasts an international cast.

He is also involved in the sequel to director Ang Lee’s Academy Award-winning “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

Action director Michael Mann is about to bring his crew — and his robots — to Hong Kong to shoot scenes for the newest addition to the “Transformers” franchise, the latest Hollywood film to use Asian settings to lure the region’s moviegoers, following on from the success this year of Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim.”

In an increasingly globalized economy, “international projects are bound to flourish,” producer Nanette Nelms said.

Her production, “Vara: A Blessing,” a Bhutanese film directed by lama Khyentse Norbu and made with an internationally-recruited crew, was the surprise choice for festival opener in Busan.

The musical drama about a woman’s illicit love for a man of lower caste premiered at the event Thursday, giving it the kind of international exposure producers crave — especially when it comes to Asia.

The region outpaced North America in terms of box office growth in 2012, increasing by 15 percent to $10.4 billion compared to North America’s 6 percent rise to $10.8 billion, and the same scenario is playing out so far this year.

The Chinese market is No. 1, taking in an estimated $1.8 billion at the box office over the first six months of the year — a year-on-year rise of 36 percent. It is expected to overtake the U.S. market by 2020.