Monday, May 17, 2004

Film industry strategizes

I was looking for news from Cannes about Apichatpong's Tropical Malady when I came across a Variety article about the Thai film biz.

GMM Pictures, a subsidiary of music mogul GMM Grammy, has formed a joint venture with Tai Entertainment and Hub Ho Hin Films to establish GMM Tai Hub, Variety said. The partnership is the country's biggest integrated film producer.

Tai is best known for its transvestite volleyball comedy Iron Ladies.

Hub Ho Hin got its start in 2002 with Mekong Full Moon Party about the mysterious "Naga fireballs" that rise from the Mekong River. It was co-produced with GMM.

GMM Grammy will be a local and foreign distributor for Tropical Malady, the article said.

Grammy has only recently gotten into films, having made most of its money in Thai pop music, television and radio.

The company's offerings include Pimpaka Towira's thriller, One Night Husband and Yuthlert Sippapak's romantic drama February. Those two weren't so successful at the box office, but Hub Ho Hin's Fan Chan (My Girl) was a huge hit for Grammy in 2003. Fan Chan, which earned 140 million baht (about US$3 million) according to the Bangkok Post, was produced under a loose partnership between Hub Ho Hin, Tai and Grammy.

Grammy was also behind Ai Fak (The Judgment), which did good business, bringing in $1.01 million in ticket sales, Variety said.

Paiboon Damrongchaitham, the chairman and founder of Grammy, will chair the joint-venture company while day-to-day operations will be overseen by Visute Poolvoralaks, the owner of Tai Entertainment, who has been appointed chief executive officer, according to a followup article in the Bangkok Post. Jina Osothsilp, the managing director of Hub Ho Hin, will be GTH's managing director.

"The idea of a joint venture came about after the success of Fan Chan," Visute told the Post. "We think we should combine our strengths to achieve the highest efficiency in the business. GMM is strong in media, Tai Entertainment in marketing, and Hub Ho Hin in production. That becomes a perfect blend of elements for our new firm.

"For the industry, the direction now is to aim for long-term benefits. The number of Thai films will be reduced, but they will be more professionally done. Established studios will develop screenplays, manage distribution and hire staff with a clearer direction."

Meanwhile, BEC Tero is rethinking its film venture after the historical romance drama Siam Renaissance proved to be a critical and commercial flop, earning only $500,000.

Like Grammy, BEC Tero is primarily in the music business, but also has a large stake in television (operating Thailand's Channel 3) and radio. It also runs Thaiticketmaster and has been promoting a lot of concerts. It was the promoter of the failed Rolling Stones gig in Bangkok, but also has been behind successful concerts (successful meaning in my book that the artists actually showed up!) by the likes of Bryan Ferry and the Pretenders. Upcoming will be a show by Black Eyed Peas at the company's own venue, BEC Tero Hall.

As for film, BEC Tero says it will concentrate on the distribution end under its Film Bangkok label.

Several of BEC Tero's films have earned good reputations, including Oxide Pang's Bangkok Dangerous and Tears of the Black Tiger.

Also from Variety was a story about a Thai tourism official at Cannes to promote the Bangkok International Film Festival. They also were promoting Thailand as a location, offering a 30 percent tax break to foreign companies who come make films in the Kingdom.

Among the movies already lined up to film in Thailand is Star Wars III, Variety said. News to me. George Lucas in Thailand? Where? Oliver Stone's Alexander recently wrapped up a shoot in Thailand.

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