Ampere: China, Asian Market Projected to Lead Theatrical Comeback in 2021

Without a vaccine and/or decline in coronavirus infections, the theatrical market in the U.S. and other western markets is expected to remain challenged in 2021. New data from Ampere Analysis contends global box office dropped 75% in 2020 to $11 billion, from $44 billion in 2019. The London-based firm suggests China and other Asian markets less impacted by the pandemic will spearhead theatrical’s return next year to $33 billion in ticket sales.

Ampere’s latest forecasts in Asia Pacific show revenue reaching $15 billion by 2021 and $25 billion by 2025 to match pre-pandemic levels. China is responsible for the lion’s share of this recovery. Q1 is the market’s most lucrative quarter, and the pandemic is therefore likely to stymie growth in 2021 too. However, the success of recent movie releases in China suggests that consumers are cautiously returning to theaters. These markets are less reliant on U.S. content and Ampere anticipates that continued local investment in production will further buoy recovery and growth.

 

“2020 was the year that the Chinese box office was expected to overtake the U.S.,” research director Richard Cooper said in a statement. “The pandemic halted that, and instead we will see these two markets vying for the global number one slot in 2021. By the following year however, China will move into the lead, to double the size of the U.S. market by 2025.”

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It’s a different story in the Western markets, where cinema closures and the reductions in the number of accessible screens are set to continue. This will limit access to movie theaters, accelerating the downturn already evident in markets such as Germany, France and the United States.

The Asia Pacific markets have become less reliant on foreign movie content over the past few years for their revenue. The void left by the absence of U.S. releases as a result of the pandemic has provided a golden opportunity to promote local content. As a result, a number of high-profile releases in Asia in Q3 and Q4 have begun to resuscitate the local theatrical sector. In Japan, Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train broke all records, earning $140 million to-date at the box office. In China, local titles My People, My Homeland and The Eight Hundred have grossed $460 million and $416 million, respectively, in China alone, far outstripping the revenue generated by China’s top-performing U.S. releases Tenet ($51 million) and Mulan ($41 million).

“This sector is characterized by very different performance depending on location. In the West, theatrical revenue is under serious pressure, while in Asia, we expect the market to bounce back rapidly, driven by the rise of locally produced content. Many of the Hollywood studios are shifting their business models to react and adapt to this geographic change, experimenting with digital release strategies in Western markets and testing the viability of bypassing theatrical release. As a consequence, Asia will emerge as the predominant theatrical market by 2025.”

Discovery, StarzPlay Partner for SVOD Distribution

Discovery and StarzPlay March 16 announced a partnership that will see the former’s Dplay streaming video service available across the Middle East and Asia (MENA) on StarzPlay, Starz’s international SVOD based in Dubai with more than 1 million subscribers.

The agreement affords StarzPlay subs access to thousands of hours of content, segregated into playlists dedicated to specially curated interest verticals — including crime, lifestyle, food, wildlife and more. New content will be added to the platform each month.

Discovery TV franchises include “Shark Week,” “MythBusters,” “Gold Rush,” “Expedition Unknown,” “House Hunters International” and “Say Yes to the Dress,” among others.

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“This is the first time Discovery is taking its content beyond the pay-TV universe in the region and opening it up to a whole new customer base,” Amanda Turnbull, GM, Discovery Middle East & Africa, said in a statement. “As we commence our pivot toward digital, this milestone sets the benchmark for Discovery’s continued growth in the digital space.”

Following a free trial period of up to one-month (varies across the region), monthly subscription to the content costs AED/SAR15 ($4) per month as an add-on package.

“With this partnership we are starting a new chapter in company’s growth to become the one-stop shop for premium content,” said Danny Bates, chief commercial officer of StarzPlay.”

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Dplay will be available in Q2 2020, through existing StarzPlay apps, including Apple TV. StarzPlay is available to download online and via respective iOS and Android app stores.

 

Emerging Markets Streaming Service Iflix Reaches 15 Million Subscribers

iflix, a streaming and download entertainment service for emerging markets, announced it has reached more than 15 million subscribers and experienced 250% growth since January 2018.

iflix is available to consumers in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar, Vietnam, the Maldives, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Cambodia, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Nepal, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Tanzania and Uganda. It offers users unlimited access to thousands of TV shows, movies and other content including comedies, drama, K-drama, Turkish drama, Bollywood, Nollywood, cartoons, movies and live sports from Hollywood, the United Kingdom, Asia, the Middle East and Africa for a monthly fee.

“2018 is already a transformational year for iflix,” said iflix co-founder and group CEO Mark Britt in a statement. “We continue to be passionately obsessed with what emerging markets customers need and want. The huge growth we’ve seen across the business is a testament to that commitment. We have one goal and that is to make iflix ubiquitous across emerging markets. To achieve this, we will continue to learn and innovate to build global culture and find new audiences for extraordinary world class content.

The service is moving away “from the traditional Western SVOD model” to “culturally rich, engaging localized programming and features,” according to an iflix press release.

The service has seen growth in customer engagement, with content consumption doubling in the last five months for an overall 22.84 billion minutes (43,500 years) streamed since launch, according the iflix.

User data shows that local audiences have a strong preference for local content, according to the release. To cater to this demand, iflix has significantly increased its acquisition and commissioning of local content, with the aim of quadrupling its commissioning slate by 2019 with 12 original TV series, 30 feature movies and 75 short form films, the service announced.

iflix is beefing up resources for translation and subtitling, to help make its international content library more accessible to local audiences, the release noted.

In January this year, iflix announced a joint venture with Football Malaysia. The company has also added Bangladesh cricket, Formula E and 2018 World Cup Russia action, as well as music events.

The company has built a live hub with live streaming infrastructure and capabilities, enabling streaming of every World Cup match on its Kwesé-iflix service across Africa.

EMA Partners on Its First International Arm, EMA Asia

LAS VEGAS — The Entertainment Merchants Association Jan. 9 announced a partnership with Singapore-based Vuulr to establish its first international arm: EMA Asia.

The agreement covers China, India, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia.

EMA Asia will advance the EMA’s digital supply chain efficiency initiatives in Asia through conferences, seminars and workshops that will create awareness and promote adoption of the EMA’s standards, specifications and best practices for online video, according to the EMA.

Vuulr, which provides digital transaction solutions, will operate EMA Asia from its offices in Singapore under an exclusive multi-year license from EMA.

“We’ve unintentionally pigeonholed ourselves domestically,” said Mark Fisher, president and CEO of the EMA. “We’ve created EMA Asia in part to support those of you here in the U.S. who have partners internationally. Our goal is to expand adoption of the EMA standards and to get feedback on how they can be improved. We believe we picked the right team to work with.”

Ian McKee, CEO of Vuulr, noted, “This is an industry that has a huge amount of disruption coming to its doorstep every day. There’s a huge amount of inefficiency.”

He added that the Vuulr office is well located to address Asia.

“Within a short flight of about five hours, we can be anywhere in the market,” he said, adding EMA Asia aims to help EMA members find out about some of the different challenges in those markets.

Increasing global utilization of the EMA’s standards, specifications and best practices for online video will open more markets to a greater diversity of content and allow more content to get online, more quickly and at a lower cost, benefitting content providers, retailers and consumers, according to the EMA. EMA’s digital supply chain standards, specifications, and best practices are developed to reduce friction points in the supply chain identified by digital video retailers and video programming distributors, the organization noted.

Members of EMA Asia will receive certain EMA member benefits and member rates for EMA conferences and events. As part of the agreement, Vuulr will also become a sponsor of Digital EMA, the EMA’s community for the online video industry, and participate in the EMA’s digital supply chain workgroup.