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Business >> Thursday February 28, 2008
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South Korea the model for film industry

Producers suggest formula for success

WORANUJ MANEERUNGSEE

To emulate South Korea's success and promote Thai films overseas, the government must support the industry through deregulation, cutting import taxes and suppressing rampant counterfeiting, according to Visute Poolvoralaks, the CEO of the production company GMM Thai Hub. Mr Visute made the comment after Commerce Minister Mingkwan Sangsuwan floated the idea of promoting the film industry on Monday.

Mr Visute said the new Film Act approved by the previous government to replace the 1973 Film Act might introduce impractical regulations like a censorship board.

''The new law could change the landscape of the Thai film industry in a better way or the other way around. If the organic laws set impractical regulations, that would severely hurt the industry,'' he said.

Under existing legislation, Thai and foreign films would be screened by a strict censorship board dominated by senior police officers who have a reputation for cutting out all explicit sex scenes and anything deemed to be offensive to Buddhism or be politically sensitive.

The industry has lobbied for the current censorship system to be replaced by film ratings, such as 'R' for films restricted to adults. But some are already worried that the amended law may worsen the environment for artistic freedom rather than improve it.

Jina Osothsilp, the managing director of GMM Thai Hub, said the government should help film makers by cutting import tariffs on equipment and films to reduce costs, just as the South Korean government did. Production costs are high even though the local market is still small.

In the United States, a roll of film costs about 3,000 baht, while here it fetches about 8,000 baht. ''You can imagine how the import duty is a burden,'' said Ms Jina.

Both Mr Visute and Ms Jina agreed that South Korea's success with film exports came from a combination of marketing and full government support, which eventually attracted top filmmakers to the country.

''I would say that more than 50% of Korean movies are good, while quality Thai movies are so few,'' said Mr Visute.

GMM Thai Hub, which is 51% owned by Grammy Group, projected revenues from ticket sales of six movies to hit 300 million baht, up from 257 million baht from five movies last year. It also projected another 200 million baht in revenue from VCD sales and royalties for both free-to-air TV and cable TV. Tai Entertainment holds a 30% stake and Hub Ho Hin owns 19%.

The marketing budget for each film would be 15 million baht and production costs around 25-35 million baht, similar to last year. However, the company anticipated that average revenues for single movies would hit more than 51.4 million baht thanks to more quality movies.

''Now we know what the right things are for us after three years of experimenting,'' he said, adding that the company aims to be the best in three categories: romantic, horror and comedy.

Last year, the market for Thai movies climbed to 1.69 billion baht, up from 1.2 billion baht. In 2008, the executives estimated that 50 Thai movies would hit the big screen.


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