Hong Kong cinema and the economic crisis

Yoshie: How will the Asian economic crisis affect the HK film industry? The end of Hong Kong cinema and the beginning of brain drains?

attempted cross-over to Hollywood (initiated by Terence Chang & John Woo in 1991) preceded economic crisis...concerns (generally exaggerated) about post-1997 handover motivated some...greater threat turned out to be financial meltdown as there have been no signs of China hindering HK film industry...

currency devaluations resulted in further decline of already-dwindling Asian box-office revenues as overseas distributors balked at paying higher prices caused by the relative strength of HK's dollar (which remained 'pegged' to the US dollar)...a few folks suggested abandoning overseas markets but autarky doesn't appear feasible given HK's small audience base (made even smaller by rising unemployment and wage reductions in HK itself)...only about 50 films were made in HK in 1998, down from peak of about 200 films in late 80s/early 90 (disappearing profits expedited triad movement out of film industry)...

profits evaporated, film companies went out of business or increased their borrowing from banks...depression level conditions reduced HK film industry employment by almost 1/2...a self-fulfilling prophecy is at work: the quality of HK produced films producing little revenue and failing to turn a profit is criticized, investors reduce future financing resulting in even smaller budgets and shorter production time, and a downward spiral of poorer pictures ensues...

other problems persist as well: bootlegging (HKer's can buy 5 black market disks for about US $13 or about 1/3rd of cost of going 5 times to the theatre...foreign competition, (69% of films screened in HK in 1997 were Hollywood fare)...and China hasn't done much to help either, many film folks hoped that HK's Special Administration Region status would mean its movies would count as domestic productions and not be subject to China's restriction of 10-15 imported films per year..as of now, HK filmmakers wanting to avoid the import quota and registration needed for access to the Mainland's vast potential audience must find a Mainland partner and submit scripts for approval...no 'salvation' to be found there yet,

Michael Hoover