23rd FILMART Draws Nearly 9,000 International Buyers to Hong Kong

The 23rd edition of Hong Kong International Film and TV Market (FILMART), organized by the HKTDC, drew to a successful close Thursday. The four-day event attracted nearly 9,000 buyers. Exhibitors took advantage of this influx, securing content sales on site.

Acort International, a U.S. exhibitor and long-time FILMART participant, reached a distribution agreement for war film World W4R with buyers from Korea, Vietnam and India on the second day of the exhibition. Horizon Motion Pictures from Canada featured Wedding and Lovers Tourist around the World and discussed with filmmakers from the Philippines, India, Indonesia and the United Kingdom. This documentary will have two episodes on each place to introduce local wedding ceremonies and cultural traditions.

Sil-Metropole Organisation Ltd. from Hong Kong said its martial arts films were popular among Southeast Asian buyers at FILMART, with a number of investment discussions ensuing, including for The Shaolin Temple 2. Sil-Metropole also revealed that a virtual reality production company from the U.K. intends to remake its action movies and micro-movies with VR technology.

Mainland China-based China Central Television (CCTV) does a lot of international business, with 60% to 70% of the buyers of its drama series coming from overseas. CCTV said many new-media platforms, including Facebook, in addition to TV stations, negotiated with them at FILMART this year. Mainland animator Fantawild Animation Inc. from Guangdong Province reached a broadcasting agreement with an Indian TV station for the company’s animation Boonie Bears on the third day of FILMART.

FILMART’s seminars featured an impressive line-up of nearly 60 leading industry representatives from the film, digital entertainment, animation and other sectors. The 14 seminars organized by the HKTDC solely or in conjunction with other institutions attracted more than 3,000 attendees.

Speakers included Esther van Messel, CEO of First Hand Films; Lex Zhu, Producer of A Bite of China; David Weiland, EVP Asia at BBC Studios; Jonathan Spink, CEO of HBO Asia; Sean Park, Marketing Director of YouTube International Markets; Jim Packer, President of Worldwide TV and Digital Distribution, Lionsgate; Yu Gong, Founder and CEO of iQIYI, Inc and President of Worldwide TV and Digital Distribution; Joe Aguilar, Emmy Award-winning producer; Belle Avery, Producer of The Meg; Pang Ho-cheung, Director of Love in a Puff; Derek Tsang, Director of Soul Mate; and Sunny Chan, Director of Men on the Dragon.

FILMART this year focused on the development of film and TV in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area. Leading industry representatives in the Greater Bay Area explored the cooperation opportunities and future development for Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau film, TV and music in events including the “TV World 2019 – Opening Ceremony cum International Forum; Greater Bay Area: Golden Opportunity to Spearhead Film-TV business”, “Cantonese Movies Opportunities in the Greater Bay Area Forum” and “Hong Kong Asian-Pop Music Festival Business Forum: Greater Bay Area – New Business Opportunities for Cantopop”.

Allan Zeman, Chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Group, believes the film and TV industries in the Greater Bay Area need to understand each other and how everyone can work together to grasp those opportunities. Sin Kwok-lam, Honorary Chairman & Founder of National Arts Entertainment and Culture Group Ltd, hopes the mainland could further relax the restrictions and quotas on Hong Kong films, allowing them to be released directly in the Greater Bay Area, which has a population of about 70 million.

The rapid emergence of OTT platforms in recent years was a hot topic of discussion at FILMART. Jonathan Spink, CEO of HBO Asia, said despite the challenges, the future is looking very healthy for OTT services. “You will see people not just selecting and paying for one platform, but for two or three, and people are watching more content than ever before.”

Sean Park, Marketing Director of YouTube International Markets, shared that YouTube has become part of everyday life, and 500 hours of YouTube content are now uploaded every minute. “Some 70 percent of views are on phones, for an average of an hour a day — about the time many spend commuting.”

At this year’s FILMART, more than 60 scheduled events — including professional seminars, new film launches and networking activities — facilitated exchanges and business matching. Major film and TV production companies announced new projects on-site, including Emperor Motion Pictures, Media Asia Distribution Limited, Mega-Vision Project Workshop, Mei Ah Entertainment, One Cool Film Production Limited, TVBI Company Limited and PCCW Media Limited. There were also more than 300 screenings, including over 100 world or Asia premieres and numerous award-winning productions. FILMART featured the Online Catch-Up Screening facility for the first time this year. The facility enables buyers and visitors to view exhibitors’ works at any time.

Another key event taking place as part of Entertainment Expo Hong Kong, The 17th Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), successfully concluded. Widely recognized as one of the most important film-financing platforms in the region, HAF showcased 42 shortlisted projects, including 19 Work-in-Progress projects. This year also marks the third edition of the WIP program in which, for the first time, a separate section for documentary projects is organised. The program offers a great opportunity for fiction and documentary filmmakers to secure post-production funds, sales agents and film festival support.

Hong Kong International Film Festival Society Curator and HAF Director Jacob Wong called the 17th Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing Forum a resounding success. “Both the number and total value of this year’s awards have set new records, affording more resources and opportunities for filmmakers to realise their dreams. As a mission, HAF will continue to support the robust development of emerging talents in Hong Kong and Asia by seeking out promising filmmakers with interesting film projects,” Mr. Wong said.

More information at www.hkfilmart.com/filmart.

Animation Magazine

‘Mavka. The Forest Song’ Hits the Right Note with International Buyers

FILM.UA Group (Ukraine) has announced a raft of pre-sales for Animagrad’s magical CG feature Mavka. The Forest Song at the European Film Market. Deals have been secured with Cinemundo (Portugal), ACME Film (Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania), Cinemart (Czech Republic & Slovakia) and Monolith Films (Poland). Pre-sales for the project opened at last year’s Cannes Marché du Film; Mavka has previously been picked up by Italia Film for the MENA region .

FILM.UA Group is presenting a work-in-progress scene to potential partners at Stand 161 at MGB.

Due for delivery in 2020, Mavka. The Forest Song is directed by Sasha Ruban from a script by Yaroslav Voytseshek; Kristian Koskinen is art director. Producers are Iryna Kostyuk, Anna Eliseeva and Egor Olesov.

Synopsis: Mavka — a soul of the Forest — faces an impossible choice between love and her duty as guardian to the Heart of the Forest, when she falls in love with a human — the talented young musician Lukash.

Learn more on the FILM.UA website.

Mavka: The Forest Song

Mavka: The Forest Song

Animation Magazine

AFM: Light Chaser’s ‘Cats’ & ‘White Snake’ Attract Buyers

Beijing-based Light Chaser Animation Studios — headed by the founder and former CEO of Chinese VOD site Tudou, Gary Wong — has secured sales for new animated features White Snake and Cats and Peachtopia.

Warner Bros. has boarded the latest flick, White Snake, as co-producer and holds distribution rights in China; it is in negotiations to take on the rights in other major territories. Directed by Amp Wong and Zhao Ji, the fantasy-adventure based on a popular folk tale about a snake who longs to live as a human, and takes the form of a beautiful woman. The movie takes place before the events of the traditional story and combines a love story with an epic quest. Watch the first trailer here.

Cats and Peachtopia (alternatively titled Cats) is set in the southwestern city of Chongqing and centers on a middle-aged cat who enjoys his life in a high-rise apartment, and his son who is curious about the outside world and finally leaves his comfortable home to seek Peachotopia — a heaven for cats, where he hopes to find his mother. The father must face the perils of the outside world to find his son with the help of a friendly Macaw. Trailer here.

Cats premiered at Annecy and has been licensed to KMBO (France), which will present a 300-screen release on December 12; Viva TV (U.S.), which has a deal with DirecTV and will jointly present a limited theatrical release in the first quarter of 2019; Notorious Pictures (Italy), Phars Film (Middle East) and Mango (Vietnam).

Light Chaser’s second feature, Toys and Pets (also available through All Rights) is entering theatrical release in multiple territories, including Spain, the Middle East and Turkey. The studio’s first CG animated adventure, the mythical buddy comedy The Door Guardians (or Little Door Gods), was picked up The Weinstein Co. in the U.S. and is available for streaming on Netflix as The Guardian Brothers.

[Sources: Variety, China Daily, Radii China]

White Snake

White Snake

Animation Magazine

Obamacare Buyers Could Have Fewer Choices in 2017

MONDAY May 2, 2016, 2016 — With the nation’s largest health insurer exiting all but a few Affordable Care Act exchanges next year, some Americans may be left with fewer choices and some might see higher monthly premiums.

Experts say that will be the upshot of UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s recent announcement that it will pull out of most of the 34 states where it offers health plans on the public health insurance exchanges.

The public health insurance exchanges are online marketplaces where people can shop for and enroll in a health plan. This is the third year of operation for the exchanges, a key component of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Meanwhile, health insurers stung by the high cost of covering public health exchange enrollees, are expected to request sharply higher rates for 2017.

In Virginia alone, nine insurers have proposed average rate hikes ranging from more than 9 percent to 37 percent, the Associated Press reported.

In 2016, about 12.7 million people enrolled in a health plan through HealthCare.gov or state-based insurance exchanges, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And more than eight in 10 enrollees qualified for federal tax credits to make their monthly insurance premiums more affordable.

While most consumers can choose from three or more insurers, UnitedHealth’s departure could curtail choices to one or two in a handful of southern and midwestern states, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis suggests.

But UnitedHealth’s withdrawal is expected to have a minimal effect on the average “benchmark” premium nationwide, the foundation said. It would likely have the largest effect in Alabama, Arizona, Iowa, Nebraska and North Carolina, the foundation noted.

UnitedHealth, which covers 795,000 exchange customers, has said it expects to lose $ 650 million on its exchange business in 2016.

The company is not the only insurer that has reported that it is struggling to turn a profit on the state and federal health insurance exchanges.

In a February call with investors, Aetna Inc. said the company’s public exchange business remains unprofitable.

And some Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plans, including those in Alabama and North Carolina, also have reported red ink on plans sold on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, according to news reports.

One notable exception is Anthem Inc., the nation’s largest for-profit Blues plan.

Anthem officials said last week that the company remains on target to post a slim profit this year on its public exchange business.

Gail Wilensky, an economist and head of Medicare and Medicaid under former President George H.W. Bush, said UnitedHealth’s pullback highlights, in a very public way, difficulties insurers are having in the fledgling exchanges.

“We are not yet in a period of stability,” she said.

For one thing, insuring people who signed up for health plans on the exchanges has been more costly than insurers anticipated.

People newly enrolled in those plans have higher rates of chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, heart disease, HIV and hepatitis C, according to a recent Blue Cross Blue Shield Association analysis.

The analysis also found that these newly insured Americans use more medical services and had medical costs that were 22 percent higher, on average, in 2015, than Blue Cross Blue Shield members with private health insurance.

Wilensky, a senior fellow at Project HOPE, an international health foundation, said health plans were “flying blind” in the first two years under the public exchanges because they didn’t know how sick these new members would be.

Special enrollment periods offered by the Obama administration in 2014 and 2015 to boost the number of insured individuals also played havoc with rate-setting, Wilensky added. Many of these people used medical care and then dropped their insurance; health plans, in turn, incurred the expense but lost whatever premium would have been paid the rest of the year, she explained.

Sorien Schmidt, state director for the advocacy group Enroll America, doesn’t know how it will all shake out, but she said people still have choices. And she cautioned the public not to panic when they hear about rate increases, since many exchange buyers receive federal subsidies.

“A rate increase does not equal a premium increase,” she explained.

And because plans and premiums change annually, Schmidt said it’s in consumers’ best interest to shop around each year. Open enrollment for 2017 begins Nov. 1.

“Check to make sure that you’re picking the best plan for your needs, both your budget and your health needs,” Schmidt said.

More information

To learn more about the insurance exchanges, go to HealthCare.gov.

Posted: May 2016

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Houston retailer offers furniture buyers a $7,000 oil price bet

(Reuters) – An enterprising furniture retailer in Houston has come up with a unique way of letting people bet on future oil prices in the world’s energy capital.

Jim McIngvale, who owns Gallery Furniture and is known locally as Mattress Mack, is telling customers agreeing to buy $ 7,000 in furniture that he will give them their money back if oil is $ 85 a barrel or higher at the end of this year.

Based on current forecasts from major U.S. banks, McIngvale will not have to repay any customers given estimates ranging from $ 51 per barrel to $ 75 for the price of crude at year end.

“Everyone knows how important oil is to the Houston area economy,” reads an ad on Gallery’s web site. “Everyone from construction to retail depends on how well the energy industry prospers. The better energy does, the better we all benefit.”

Oil prices have slumped more than 50 percent since June to around $ 50 per barrel, and many analysts believe global oversupply will keep prices low for months.

Customers making the bet would need prices to rise 70 percent from where they are now to make money in what is described on the web site as a “very limited time offer.”

The fourth-largest city in the country, Houston has a long history of booms and busts linked to oil.

Oil is the traditional lifeblood of the Gulf Coast city. Its pro football team used to be “The Oilers.”

Local bars include “The Derrick Tavern,” a nod to drillers, and “The Refinery,” which often puts a sign up on Fridays paying homage to the hydraulic fracturing boom that has lifted U.S. oil output. Its slogan? “Thank Frac It’s Friday.”

McIngvale, who regularly appears in his store’s television advertisements, previously had to pay a total of $ 4 million to customers who bought his furniture and were guaranteed refunds if the Houston Astros baseball team won 63 games or more last season.

(Reporting By Terry Wade and Anna Driver; editing by Andrew Hay)

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Saints Row: The Third PS3 Buyers Get Saints Row 2 for Free

Saints Row 2

Those who purchase a new copy of Saints Row: The Third on PlayStation 3 and redeem their online pass code soon enough are entitled to a free copy of Saints Row 2.

During Sony’s E3 press conference in June, it was announced that an exclusive mode of some sort would be included in the PS3 version of The Third. It was reported yesterday that the promised bonus appeared to be missing; the console versions of the game seem to be identical and THQ wasn’t willing to comment on the situation.


Early Modern Warfare 3 Buyers Don’t Need to Worry About Xbox Live Bans

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

A handful of lucky gamers have Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 in their hands right now — and they didn’t get it by downloading the leaked version currently floating around the Internet.

At least one Kmart store (located in Tampa, Florida) began selling the game in its electronics department despite its release being scheduled for November 8, Kotaku reports. Copies have also shown up on eBay (where the image below comes from) and Craigslist in New York at inflated prices.


New Battlefield 3 Buyers Get Mass Effect 3 Demo Early

Mass Effect 3

Ahead of the Mass Effect trilogy wrapping up in March, fans will have a chance to try out Mass Effect 3‘s single-player and multiplayer in January.

Plans to launch a demo in January have been announced by BioWare. An exact date for its release is to be announced in late November according to an FAQ posted on the BioWare forums. The multiplayer portion will be available earlier to a select group of people, including those who redeem an online pass for Battlefield 3 (which comes free with new copies of the game).


Survey Reveals Why Videogame Buyers Choose New Over Used


The gigantic used videogames market has become a major issue in the industry. GameStop in particular is making a tremendous amount of money off of used games as various publishers do what they can to incentivize gamers to purchase new copies of games instead of used ones. Analyst group Cowen and Company conducted a survey trying to find out what exactly motivates gamers to purchase new copies as opposed to used ones, with 70% of respondents claiming they will buy a new game “if they plan on playing it for a long time.”

Analyst Doug Creutz said in response to that popular answer (via Gamasutra), “We suspect there is a behavioral psychology factor at work, where gamers have an easier time justifying the higher price of a new game if they expect to get more use/value out of it, even though the utility of new vs. used on that basis isn’t any different.”

The survey polled 1,300 people, with 1,001 of those being gamers.