France eyes bigger Asian movie audience: film body

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A Paris-based body tasked with promoting French films said Thursday it wants to expand France's share of the huge Asian movie market where Hollywood productions clearly dominate at the box office.

The film body uniFrance said it intends to beef up the distribution and marketing channels in the region so that Asians will be more familiar with French movies, its actors and actresses.

The move to expand its share of the Asia movie audience is a reflection of the region's growing economic prosperity, said Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, the president of uniFrance.

"We feel that in this region which is expanding very rapidly, we have to be more present and have more physical links with the distributors, physical links of the French artistes, directors, actors with the public here," he told AFP.

It will not be easy to match up to Hollywood's vast marketing and distribution channels but Clermont-Tonnerre said this is an area that the French film industry needs to work on.

"The weakness of European cinema is that we don't have the huge machine of promotion, of distribution that the major (US) companies have. They have people in all parts of the world promoting their films," he said.

"The dominance of the American cinema is dominance of their distribution network and we are far from having the same power so we are obliged to work within our means, which are much smaller."

French films currently make up one percent of the Asian market excluding China -- where strict quotas for foreign films are in place -- and India, where Bollywood shows reign supreme.

Hollywood flicks largely dominate cinemas in other Asian countries.

"Our market share here is very small, is around one percent... but if we were able to reach one and a half percent we already would be happy," said Clermont-Tonnerre who was in Singapore for a French film festival.

"(This is) opposite to the average number around the world, where we are regularly between two and four percent. So it means that we still have to improve our positions here."

French director Gilles Paquet-Brenner, who was also in town for the French film festival, said it would not be easy to overcome Hollywood whose animation and action-packed flicks regularly top box offices around Asia.

"Hollywood has it all. We have to face that. It's not a war or anything but they won and they won for a long time... A market like this, that is so Hollywood, it's probably way more difficult to penetrate," he told AFP.

But Paquet-Brenner -- director of the critically acclaimed "Sarah's Key" -- said language still presented the biggest challenge for the French movie industry in Asia.

"The obstacle is language. People are so used to Hollywood movies, so they're used to the actors, they're used to the language," he said.

"People are used to it and you have to sometimes break this pattern and show people that something else exists."

Tan Bee Thiam, film lecturer at the Nanyang Technological University, said the French need to step up their marketing efforts in the region if they want more Asians to watch their movies.

"I think a lot of what would be needed is marketing, where you get the stars over, where you sell and promote and publicize. It is always that versus the Hollywood marketing muscle," he told AFP.

"So I think if they are able to do so and they have the budget to do that kind of work, they are already making very charming films which should not be hard at all to connect."

Tan, who is also a well-known local filmmaker and critic, said he would like to see more "popular, mainstream" films from France instead of "artistic films" commonly screened at film festivals that attract a much smaller niche audience.

"There have been popular films from France, from Germany and other places that are more slick... that are fronted with beautiful actors. So I think we sometimes don't see enough of what is popular and what is mainstream from those countries," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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