Charles Rivkin CineAsia Keynote Address
Growing Together: Asia and America’s Shared Cinematic Future
Thank you, Mike, for that kind introduction.
And thank you to everyone here, especially Bob and Andrew Sunshine, for the opportunity to join you on my very first trip to Asia as Chairman & CEO of the Motion Picture Association.
As a representative of the global film industry, I am here today to share a few words on the bright future of cinema in both Asia and the United States – and the opportunities for our industries to grow even stronger by working closely together.
But more broadly, I am here to reflect on the power of film around the world – its power to propel local and national economies, to bridge cultures and values, and to create movie memories that last a lifetime.
The great director Steven Spielberg, for example, has a strong memory of the first time he went to the movies. It was in 1952, when he went to watch The Greatest Show on Earth with his father and was captivated by the portrayal of life inside the Ringling Brothers Circus.
In a similar way, Sound editor and mixer Ai-Ling Lee will tell you it’s a movie’s sounds that generate the most lasting impression. She recently made history as part of the first all-female sound mixing team nominated for two Academy Awards for their work on La La Land.
Lee remembers repeatedly watching Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 in theaters as a kid because the films’ sounds were so mesmerizing she felt transported to new worlds. The memory will stay with her forever.
So, I share these anecdotes because while they are personal, they are hardly unique.
People across all walks of life and in every corner of the globe can recount experiences – memories of their first trips to the cinema.
For audiences and creators alike, cinema has an undeniable power to generate real and lasting emotions.
This communal power keeps people coming back to the theaters time and time again. It’s why people around the world flocked to the cinema to experience the terror of Stephen King’s It and to feel part of a World War Two evacuation in Warner Bros’ Dunkirk.
And it’s why I imagine – in some way or another – each of you have found your way to this room, today.
Not only do you have your own movie memories, but every day, you see countless others being formed by the customers who fill your seats.
So thank you for the role you play in creating these powerful memories – and for your collaboration in advancing the magic of movies around the world.
That idea of collaboration is what I want to focus on, today.
Actor James McAvoy once smartly said, “Filmmaking is a miracle of collaboration.”
While he was most certainly referring to his fellow actors and crews, it is clear to me that the industry in and around filmmaking is also a “miracle of collaboration.”
As global creators and exhibitors, we need each other. We are successful because we are masterful storytellers – but also because we are continually telling these stories in engrossing and immersive ways.
But for this success to continue apace, we must realize that the bond between our industries is a symbiotic one – and that if we strategically strengthen this bond, our growth together will be even greater.
Consider, for example, Paramount’s Transformers: The Last Knight. The film grossed just over $130 million at the U.S. box office, but in China, box office totals topped $228 million. Or Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which hit $172 million in the United States and $794 million worldwide.
In Japan, Beauty and the Beast boasts the top prize for highest grossing film so far this year. And across the international box office as a whole, Universal’sFate of the Furious holds the number one spot.
In fact, seven American films made more box office revenue in China alone than in the US market this year. The point is, audiences across Asia Pacific are devouring American content. They are filling theater seats to the benefit of your businesses and to the benefit of the studios that I am proud to represent.
This partnership is vital to the future of our industry. Continued success demands that we work together to create new content that resonates with global audiences.
Through partnerships we can develop the next generation of great creators and storytellers. I recently had the opportunity to see firsthand.
Just last month, I spent the evening with four young Chinese filmmakers in Los Angeles.
These filmmakers were in California for an intensive, week-long program with Paramount Pictures, through which they were able to gain a new understanding of how films are developed, produced, and distributed in the American studio system. And in turn, they were able to share valuable insights and learnings from the Chinese industry with their hosts.
It was just like speaking to their American counterparts. They talked about commerce versus art. They spoke of the power of directors versus producers. The challenges of finding production finance. And they even talked about who influenced them creatively in their work. They had so much in common because film is truly a universal bridge between our societies.
This program is among the many that has proven incredibly successful at improving dialogue and deepening understanding between the Asian and American film industries.
But developing top-level talent and creating compelling content – that is only part of the equation.
The actual experience of watching a movie – of sharing the emotional highs and lows with others – is just as important to our industry’s future. It is also an area where, through greater collaboration, we can grow together.
Indeed, when it comes to constructing premiere theaters and developing movie-going experiences, right now, you are setting the pace.
Consider the numbers. In 2016, total cinema screens increased eight percent worldwide to reach nearly 164,000 largely due to double digit growth across the Asia Pacific region.
In China, alone, exhibitors are adding an average of 20 screens every single day – and not just in the country’s megacities and urban centers, but in third, fourth, and fifth tier cities all across.
But even more important than the sheer numbers, these theaters are being built to meet the demands of modern audiences. They are innovative, comfortable, and immersive – often using cutting edge technology.
Many of today’s theaters now feature full bars and gourmet restaurant options. They also boast laser-projection technology that offers crystal clear color and contrast.
But as we all know, simply scheduling an impressive line-up of movie titles or offering a luxurious viewing experience is not enough today to ensure the sustained growth of our industries. We need to do even more that’s because we must also compete with the increasingly prevalent issue of global piracy.
In Australia, for example, 21 percent of adults between 18 and 64 years old admit to some form of piracy.
In Singapore, according to Sycamore Research, 39 percent of respondents admitted that they actively pirate creative content.
Fortunately, critical steps are being taken across the region – and together, around the world – to protect content and creators.
On the enforcement side, a number of countries in the Asia Pacific now offer a site blocking remedy to prevent access to many major pirate websites. Others have initiated voluntary measures in partnership with the advertising community to effectively cut off pirates’ revenue stream.
Meanwhile, a great deal of effort goes into educating consumers through campaigns that promote the legal digital marketplace for creative works.
In Japan, for instance, the anti-camcording mascot, “camcorder guy,” has been so successful it now has a cult following with its own line of figurines.
But piracy is, of course, larger than any one region. It is a global issue that requires a concerted global response.
Which is why content companies from markets all around the world recently launched the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) and through collaboration at a scale never before seen in the fight against piracy, ACE is already taking concrete and successful steps to address this problem.
As we look forward, we are eager for Asian companies to join these efforts – because as we have seen, the future of our industries is unmistakably linked.
And right now that future is bright.
In fact, just last month, according to reports from the Chinese Film Bureau (SAPPRFT), China’s box office passed the $7.5 billion mark. That all-time high represents a year on year growth of 19 percent.
Today, the top global box office markets include the United States and eight markets across Asia Pacific – from China to Indonesia, Japan to Australia.
Such success is a reflection of the universally powerful movie experiences that we are building together as creators and exhibitors.
It is a result of every facet of our businesses collaborating to meet the evolving demands of global audiences.
And it is a vital reminder that our futures are brighter and more powerful when they are shared.
Thank you, and I look forward to working together in the years to come at a time that will surely be remembered as the global age of content.