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Sharp Elbows and Acid Tongues at Shanghai Seminar

by Sydney Levine
June 24, 2011 6:40 AM
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Again from Film Biz Asia comes this spirited report on the discussions which took place -- This time at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

Leaders of two of China's private-sector film groups and two leading film investors came to few conclusions at a film finance discussion at the Shanghai International Film Festival on Sunday. But they threw out plenty of barbed comments.

Andrew Yan , managing partner at SAIF poured scorn on "coal mine owners from Shanxi province" saying that the Chinese film industry suffers from poor quality investors. "We need professional investors. Hollywood equity is owned by institutional investors," he said.

Huayi Brothers Media co-chief Dennis Wang, who last week announced a Hong Kong-based joint venture company with Legendary Pictures, described Hong Kongers as workaholics and highly professional. But he also sniped that their films are "fast food, not very deep and meaningful... and lagging behind the China mainland."

Wang and Bona Group chief Yu Dong appeared to agree on the need for well-capitalised and professional companies in China. "We have too few large film companies. China is full of small and medium enterprises," said Yu. "The most developed film market in the world is in Hollywood. Comparable Chinese companies should go there too."

Martin Lau, president of Chinese portal Tencent and an investor in Huayi,did his best to put the film folk in their place. He told the audience that, despite the wave of cinema building, "online revenues for film will soon overtake theatrical ones." And he reminded the panellists that China's online games already exceed film revenues.

Lau also reminded Huayi to ensure that it pays dividends on its shares. Wang retorted that Huayi had paid dividends to investors even before it floated its shares on the Shenzhen Growth Enterprise Market in late 2009.

One of the sharpest elbow jabs of the day came earlier in the morning when Hollywood producer Mike Medavoy talked about The Weinstein Company's production of 2008 movie Shanghai.

Medavoy, who was born in the city, described an emotional return 18 years ago and how he was eventually persuaded to sell the project to Harvey Weinstein. "The only thing I didn't agree with was taking my name off the film. I didn't think it proper, since it germinated with me," Medavoy said.

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