Asian buyers are ultra-cautious as theatrical markets are still in recovery following the pandemic, but bright spots include animation and re-releases of classic titles, said a group of leading European sales agents at the Cannes Marche’s Spotlight Asia panel today.
Sellers including Charades, Kinology, Films Boutique and StudioCanal said Asian buyers are finally back in person at markets, following three years of pandemic travel restrictions, but there is very little pre-buying activity as buyers in most Asian markets now won’t make a decision before seeing completed films.
Stronger territories include Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, but South Korea is taking longer to come back. “Korea was traditionally a strong market for arthouse, but is now very difficult for us,” said Films Boutique’s Valeska Neu. “From time to time you something break through, but Korea’s arthouse market is now very concentrated on high profile cast and big names.”
Lucie Desquiens, acquisitions and sales manager at Charades, which has a large slate of animation, said Japanese anime is big nearly everywhere in the region: “We’ve been selling Mamoru Hosoda for a while, but Mirai really took it to another level. Distributors are really keen to acquire those titles and there’s huge competition. But 3D and adult animation we still struggle with.”
Kinology’s Nathalie Jeung said animated family adventure Argonuts had sold strongly across the region, and the producers of the film, France’s TAT Productions, are expected to announce a new title at the American Film Market later this year.
StudioCanal’s Maxime Vauthier, who oversees international library sales, said Japan was already a dynamic market for library movies before the pandemic, across theatrical, home entertainment and streaming platforms, and that these titles had started to reach new audiences over the past few years.
“What we noticed was that, although MGs were lower, library films were seen as less risky and buyers were experimenting with edgier titles,” Vauthier said. “We also noticed that buyers were starting to target the younger audience through Instagram and other social media.”
New Europe Film Sales’ Katarzyna Siniarska, who was moderating the session, said she’s witnessed a similar situation with Scandinavian drama Lamb, which Klockworx released successfully in Japan.
“Klockworx was also targeting new audiences using tools and formats welcomed by younger audiences,” Siniarska said. “It’s interesting because we’d love to tap into young audiences, but we’re still using default strategies and media channels, and those old habits are hard to drop.”
When it came to streaming, the speakers agreed it’s tough to sell directly to Asian VOD platforms as they’re only interested in volume and large package deals. “They just don’t have the manpower to act as curators and individually pick titles,” said Film Boutique’s Neu.
The speakers also touched on China – a difficult market due to slow box office and changing censorship restrictions, although Chinese buyers are also finally back in person at Cannes.
Some of the speakers said they’re finding that Chinese buyers are interested in renewing deals for titles that have already been licensed, rather than buying new titles. “You can enquire about the status of films that are already sold, and the licences are expiring soon, as there’s a chance you can renew at a reasonable number. That is something that has been working for us nicely in past few markets,” said Neu.