Instead of fighting for space on crowded European and North American cinema screens, non-English-language films should develop their markets online and in new media, said Hyde Park Entertainment chairman Ashok Amritraj.
"Foreign language films have not fulfilled their potential yet. In North America and other parts of Europe, the other big marketplace, they haven't taken the leap,"
But Amritraj said this failure was not a reflection of lack of demand.
"There is such an incredible appetite for Asian and European films all over the world, but on platforms where you don't have to go to the theatre, and among distributors who don't have to sell into the theatres."
Amritraj explains that, in most countries, cinema screen were dominated by Hollywood blockbusters or local films, leaving little space in between for other movies. "If you want a Korean or Indian movie to be distributed in, say, Germany, they are so far behind the other categories. It is a question of whether some distributor wants to build a marketplace for you," he said.
"Five years ago people were talking about classic Bollywood films crossing over. And for a while Chinese films had a real market in the US through Miramax. You don't see that with any significance any more."
"To have a good theatrical run you have to cut through so much traffic, to compete with all the stuff on your computer and at home."
To take Amritraj's statement one step further, Variety's coverage quotes Milt Barlow, CEO of China Lion Film Distribution, a joint venture between prexy Jiang Yanming and Barlow's New Zealand-based Incubate. China Lion has a deal to distribute titles for some of China's leading studios including Huayi Bros., China Film Group, Golden Sun and Bona. It just picked up "3D Sex and Zen" for North American distribution.
"I think digital distribution will be huge in the next decade. Asia is very wired. There needs to be a model where we can all make money and not just give it to the pirates," says Milt Barlow. For Barlow, combating piracy remains the biggest challenge. He reckons that 80% of his theatrical audience is arthouse or "world cinema" fans but only 20% Chinese, because most of the Chinese auds will already own a pirate copy.