Alibaba Revitalize Hong Kong’s Film Industry

Alibaba Pledges $640 Million to Revitalize Hong Kong’s Film Industry

The tech giant’s major investment is a promising development, but can it bring the city’s acclaimed film scene back to its heyday?

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2:53 PM HKT, Thu March 21, 2024 2 mins read

On March 11th, Alibaba Group announced it would devote 5 billion HKD (639.3 million USD) to Hong Kong’s culture and film industries over the next five years.

The announcement was made on the first day of Hong Kong International Film and TV Market (FILMART), the largest entertainment content showcase in Asia, which was attended by Fan Luyuan, chairman and CEO of Alibaba’s digital media and entertainment unit, and Kevin Yeung, the Hong Kong government’s secretary for culture, sports and tourism.

The initiative, dubbed the “Hong Kong Cultural and Art Industry Revitalisation Program,” is led by Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment (ADME) Group. It aims to produce Hong Kong-based media and nurture new talent, with funds divided between its entertainment and media arm and Youku, an online video platform operated as a subsidiary of Alibaba Group.

As part of the program, Alibaba Pictures will provide scholarships for 20 local filmmakers at the Hong Kong Baptist University Academy of Film.

The move has welcomed from the Hong Kong government, which has prioritized the entertainment industry in recent years. In this year’s budget address, the government announced a 1.4 billion HKD (138 million USD) injection into its Film Development Fund

“We eagerly hope that ADME Group will work more closely with the film and TV industry of Hong Kong to develop new modes of cooperation and explore business areas, to nurture new talent, and create rich and diversified content for film and TV, which will bring the development of our film and TV entertainment industry to the next level,” commented Yeung in a statement.

It’s not the first time Alibaba invested in Hong Kong’s film industry. Last year, Alibaba co-produced the legal drama A Guilty Conscience, directed by Jack Ng Wai-lun, which is now Hong Kong’s highest grossing local film of all time, with box office receipts of over 108 million HKD (13.8 million USD).

Alibaba's entertainment and media arm is also planning to establish a second base of operations in Hong Kong and partner with local firms, including Shaw Brothers Pictures, TVB, Emperor Motion Pictures, Media Asia Group, Mandarin Motion Pictures, BenXiaoHai Media Co, and Huanxi Media Group.

“Alibaba’s five-year investment plan is a shot in the arm for Hong Kong’s movie industry, which is suffering from an aging workforce,” said Crucindo Hung Cho-sing, chairman of the Hong Kong Motion Picture Industry Association. However, he noted that Hong Kong is far from its historic peak before the 2000s when it produced over 200 movies per year as the second-biggest film exporter, behind Hollywood.

The Hong Kong film industry is currently struggling to maintain consistent and stable revenue. Over the Lunar New Year, the local box office revenue dropped 24% cent compared to the same time last year, with ticket sales of just 48.6 million HKD (6.2 million USD).

Speaking with South China Morning Post, Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers spokesman Tenky Tin Kai-man echoed similar sentiments, and pointed out one challenge for the city would be to continue attracting foreign investors.

“Success highly hinges on its execution and whether the city is ready to take on competitive projects that attract foreign buyers. There can be a lot of unpredictability. If the topic violates the national security law, then the project will need to be called off,” he said.

Alibaba Pictures is currently partnered with a number of Hong Kong productions, including Without Remorse, The Last Dance, and In The Light Of Dark. Anticipated films in their production pipeline partnerships include Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In, Born Evil Seed, and Behind the Scene.

Banner image via AFP.

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