Network urges Thai film 'screen quota'

Network urges Thai film 'screen quota'

Film professionals have called for cinema operators to abide by a
Film professionals have called for cinema operators to abide by a "screen quota" that would help the Thai film industry survive. Somchai Poomlard

A network of film professionals yesterday called for cinema operators to abide by a "screen quota" that would give Thai movies more representation.

The number of Thai films screened in cinemas each year has dropped dramatically in the past couple of years, the network told a seminar at Bangkok's Arts and Culture Centre yesterday.

Section 9 of the Film and Video Act says the proportion of Thai films screened in the country must be decided on.

But the law has never been enforced, said independent filmmaker Boonsong Nakphoo, a member of the network, which will submit a petition to the National Film Association Confederation tomorrow.

The network will also ask that Thai films remain on screen for at least two weeks following their release. Theaters also shouldn't allot more than 20% of their screens to one film, in order to ensure fair representation, Mr Boonsong said.

In 2014, cinemas showed 60 Thai and 135 foreign movies -- most of them blockbusters. The following year, the number of Thai films remained the same while cinemas increased their screenings of foreign productions, with 179 foreign movies shown.

However, in 2016, only 38 Thai films hit the silver screen versus 245 foreign ones.

It's a worrying trend for the Thai film industry, Mr Boonsong said, as little representation means little income.

Undoubtedly, this problem is tied to the way cinemas operate in Thailand, he added.

Most of them are multiplex cinemas, run by two large companies -- SF and Major Cineplex -- which decide on the films to be screened.

Blockbuster movies that draw the crowds and generate big money are usually preferred over niche productions.

"It's unfair competition," Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, a film director, argued.

"Thai audiences have been taught to believe a film that makes a lot of money is a good film," he said, adding that cinemas encourage this view by screening only profitable movies.

Mr Tanwarin's latest film, A Gas Station, hit the screens in 10 cinemas on Dec 8 last year but it stopped being shown after only a week as it failed to bring in large audiences.

However, he explained this was due largely to cinemas' decision to cut the number of screenings to one a day as soon as they found out the film made an income of only 9,000 baht on its opening day.

"We do allot space for small Thai films," said Suwannee Chinchiewcharn, vice-president of SF Cinema.

"We understand this is an industry and that everyone depends on each other. So there should be more discussions about these issues," she added.

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