The 13th Eurasian Media Forum ended with a lively discussion of the future of the cinema industry in East and West, judged to be positive overall in the face of much change and many challenges.
The theme of the sixth and final session was: “The ‘Dream Factory’ as an instrument of influence on society. Business and politics in the cinema industry.” The moderator was Fionnuala Halligan, Chief Film Critic of ScreenDaily.com, Ireland.
Ray Hammond, British futurologist, set the tone for some controversy by predicting the demise of the cinema. After strong objections by various panellists, he clarified that he meant a falling off in cinema-going, and therefore a reduction in the number of movie houses, rather than the disappearance of the cinema industry itself.
Charles Lei, CEO, Thunder Communications International, China, said movie-going was a popular social activity in China. The cinema was booming in China and the biggest box office successes were Chinese-made, he said.
Several speakers made a distinction between commercial films, designed to make a profit either nationally or internationally, and ‘art house’ films that usually could only survive with state support.
Gulnara Sarsenova, film producer and General Director, Eurasia Film Production of Kazakhstan, said state participation in the funding of the film industry was vital in her country, with a population of only 17 million to support it.
Oleg Ivanov, First deputy Chairman of the Union of Cinematographers of the Russian Federation, said most films made in Russia were low budget productions. There was a clear need for state funding, both for film-making and training, because the local markets could not compete with Hollywood or Chinese blockbusters.
Tony Watts, CEO of the Festival Channel, UK, cited one example of successful independent film making that had developed unexpectedly in a small country with no previous presence in the world cinema market. The country was New Zealand and the production that pushed it to the front rank of film-making was the Lord of the Rings series.
Overall the speakers agreed that, however much younger viewers were drawn to watching video on small screens, the attraction of going to see films in cinemas still had a long future, whether the funding of the films was commercial or state-supported.