The theatrical market in the Asian-Pacific region is now the largest single component of global box office, worth $11.1 billion in 2013, the year when it overtook both North America ($10.9 billion) and Europe-Middle East-Africa (also $10.9 billion). And unlike the European and North American markets, which have stagnated, Asia has been on a steady upward trend, driven on by growth in China, India and Malaysia as well as emerging movie markets Indonesia and Vietnam.

But if the overall trend is upward, the individual market conditions faced by distributors within the region vary enormously:

  • In booming South Korea, the major exhibitors are under anti-monopoly investigation, yet the number of film imports and releases is one of the highest in the world.
  • In China, these days the world's fastest growing major market, government policy favors local films and local companies. While import quotas grab the headlines for their effect on Hollywood studio titles, censorship and other restrictions crimp the development of a notable indie scene at the theatrical level.
  • The death knell has been rung for Hong Kong cinema many times, whether the blame goes to shrinking cinema circuits or the powerful influence of mainland China's movie industry, yet the territory is adapting and enjoying something of a revival.
  • In India, possibly the most influential new indie distributor is not an indie but rather the country's biggest multiplex chain seeking to adapt to changing demographics and fast-evolving audience tastes.
The only rule in Asia is that one size rarely fits all.

Some of the newest companies making waves in the Asian scene are carving a pioneering path in the changing landscape of content distribution.

Bravos Pictures
Hong Kong
Head buyer: Ricky Tse
Recent acquisition: "Obsessed" (pictured above)
Launching only in February and adopting the motto "Ars Nunquam Vilis Est" (Art Is Never Cheap), Bravos is the new boy on the Hong Kong block. Founded by former Media Asia head of sales Ricky Tse the company comes with both international sales and local distribution mandates. Bravos had a busy start at March's Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival, where it represented the opening night pic "Aberdeen," and the saucy "3D Naked Ambition." "We see that there are many good films that are not being picked up for Hong Kong and we want to address that," Tse says. "We are going to have to fight and will start by emphasizing the more commercial titles."

Clover Films
Singapore
Head buyer: Lim Teck
Recent acquisitions: "Coming Home," "The Great Hypnotist," (pictured below) "Haemoo," "Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2"
The outlook for independent distributors in Singapore is horrible. The local tastes strongly favor Hollywood (20 of the top 25 films this year are studio titles), and the exhibition sector is controlled by three conglomerates. Add to that piracy and a traditional video sector that was recently weakened by the closure of major retailer TS Video. "It is do or die theatrical business these days, with more dead bodies than ever," says Lim Teck, who founded Clover with a mandate to produce locally and distribute in Singapore and Malaysia. Shingle believes that Asian commercial titles like "Chinese Zodiac," "Police Story 2013" and "Firestorm" can deliver. Clover's "Ah Boys to Men" and its sequel broke local B.O. records last year.

Filmware Intl.