Digital Projection Big at CineAsia

Digital projection, the growing 3-D wave and India's exhibition sector will take center stage as this year's CineAsia confab returns to the South China gambling Mecca of Macau.

"Everybody across Asia wants to know what's happening with digital projection, what's happening with 3-D, and how do you put asses in seats," Bob Sunshine, longtime organizer of the exhibition/distribution trade show, said. "We're really giving people in Asia what they've asked for."

Sunshine said that the 2008 edition at the Wynn Hotel and the Macau Tower, set for Dec. 9-11, will feature an advance 3-D screening of the Disney animated comedy Bolt. The confab's Exhibitor of the Year award will go to Tusha Dhingra, the head of India's Big Cinemas, formerly known as Adlabs.

He also said he expects lower attendance this year as owners and suppliers, film buyers and distributors face the current financial crisis and cut back on overseas travel. One major Hollywood film company has slashed the number of people it planned to send from 28 to 10, Sunshine said. Another U.S. company will attend, but has decided not to exhibit in the trade show.

"Everybody's watching their pennies," he said, noting that attendance at two North American shows, ShoWest and ShowEast, were down about 10% this year.

CineAsia will present a seminar on expanding digital cinema, with a focus on East Asia's fastest growing cinema market, China. Panelists will include Julian Levin of 20th Century Fox and Thomas Molter of Warner Bros., among others. Still, Sunshine cautioned that China, though No. 2 behind the U.S. in the number of digital cinemas installed, presents many obstacles to international exhibition companies. Unfavorable revenue splits with the state-run China Film Group and Beijing's long-standing annual quota of 20 imported films are but two of the problems he cited.

"China's making import exceptions for 3-D movies now, but with all the stopguards in place, there are a lot of international executives who are reluctant to invest there," Sunshine said.

In its focus this year on the other Asian giant, India, CineAsia will present a panel about local exhibition, featuring Fox Asian distribution boss Sunder Kimatrai, Shravan Shroff of Fame Ltd. cinemas, and representatives from digital cinema company Scrabble Entertainment and UFO Moviez, an installer of 1,400 Indian screens that meet digital requirements.

Highlighting the expanded opportunities provided by digital projection, Robert Ward of Filmways Digital will speak about how his company is showing sports and music events in Australian digital cinemas.

By Jonathan Landreth, The Hollywood Reporter