The busi­ness of fun

Di­ver­si­fied en­ter­tain­ment prod­ucts gain­ing trac­tion with ur­ban­ites

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CE­CILY LIU in Lon­don, CHEN YINGQUN in Bei­jing and QIU BO in Lon­don Con­tact the writ­ers through cheny­ingqun@chi­nadaily. com.cn

De­mand for art and en­ter­tain­ment grows among ur­ban­ites, who want spe­cial and di­ver­si­fied ser­vices.

Higher in­come lev­els and more leisure time among ur­ban dwellers are spawn­ing a grow­ing de­mand for art and en­ter­tain­ment ac­tiv­i­ties in China. Al­though di­ver­si­fied art and en­ter­tain­ment prod­ucts have long been an es­tab­lished in­dus­try in de­vel­oped na­tions, it is the resur­gent de­mand as a re­sult of the rapid ur­ban­iza­tion in China that is now prov­ing to be an ir­re­sistible draw for Western com­pa­nies.

“Ur­ban­iza­tion is one of the key fac­tors that is driv­ing en­ter­tain­ment mar­ket growth in China,” says Jack­son Wong, se­nior man­ager of KPMG China’s tech­nol­ogy, me­dia and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions prac­tice.

“There has been a lot of real es­tate growth in China, but many of th­ese new de­vel­op­ments lack con­tent and theme. Build­ing en­ter­tain­ment venues around th­ese de­vel­op­ments will au­to­mat­i­cally help at­tract more peo­ple.”

In the live per­for­mance sec­tor, many glob­ally renowned com­pa­nies have al­ready staged shows in China.

They in­clude the world’s long­est- run­ning play, The Mouse­trap, which has been per­formed in Lon­don con­tin­u­ously since 1952.

In 2010, the play went to Shang­hai for a two-week per­for­mance through a part­ner­ship be­tween The Mouse­trap Pro­duc­tion Ltd and Shang­hai Mod­ern The­ater Co.

It achieved im­me­di­ate suc­cess and, since then, the Shang­hai Mod­ern The­ater Co has pro­duced the play in Chi­nese for a sea­son each year, with its Bri­tish part­ner’s help.

“They knew of the pop­u­lar­ity of Agatha Christie’s work in China and be­lieved, cor­rectly, that it would be pop­u­lar in China,” says Stephen Wa­ley-Co­hen, who has been the show’s pro­ducer since 1994.

Apart from The Mouse­trap, Chi­nese ur­ban res­i­dents have en­joyed many live per­for­mances from over­seas, in­clud­ing the Lon­don Phil­har­monic Orches­tra the Lon­don Sym­phony Orches­tra and mu­si­cals in­clud­ing Mamma Mia, Cats and Notre Dame de Paris.

The value of China’s per­for­mance mar­ket last year reached 60.3 bil­lion yuan ($9.83 bil­lion), a rise of 60 per­cent from 2011, the Min­istry of Cul­ture says.

Two other rapidly grow­ing en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­tries in China are film and TV. China’s box of­fice rev­enues reached $2.7 bil­lion last year, a 36 per­cent year- on- year in­crease. This made China the world’s sec­ond- largest film mar­ket just be­hind the United States and the world’s third-largest film­maker, the Mo­tion Pic­ture As­so­ci­a­tion says.

Yang Shut­ing, a se­nior an­a­lyst at en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try con­sul­tancy Ent­Group Con­sult­ing in Bei­jing, says China’s TV and film in­dus­tries pro­vide great op­por­tu­ni­ties for for­eign com­pa­nies whose creative con­tent and pro­duc­tion ex­per­tise are well liked by the Chi­nese au­di­ence.

“Chi­nese au­di­ences’ de­mand for im­ported TV se­ries has be­come a con­sis­tent trend over the years, but re­cently the mar­ket for im­ported va­ri­ety shows has rapidly ex­panded, re­flect­ing do­mes­tic va­ri­ety shows’ in­abil­ity to sat­isfy de­mand,” Yang says.

“At the same time, China’s pro­tec­tion of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights for TV pro­grams is strength­en­ing, cre­at­ing as­sur­ances for for­eign TV com­pa­nies in this trade. In­ter­na­tional TV pro­grams are in­creas­ingly pur­su­ing global ex­pan­sion strate­gies now — and China is cer­tainly a good mar­ket.”

Yang says one pop­u­lar model of co­op­er­a­tion in the film sec­tor is co- pro­duc­tion, where both par­ties con­trib­ute their ex­per­tise to the pro­duc­tion process and share the risk of the in­vest­ment.

Yang’s com­ments are echoed by Meng Chao, 30, an in­de­pen­dent film di­rec­tor, who says the pro­duc­tion tech­niques and tech­nolo­gies of for­eign com­pa­nies are of­ten ap­pre­ci­ated by the Chi­nese film in­dus­try.

Meng says he be­lieves a suc­cess­ful ex­am­ple is the Cal­i­for­nia-head­quar­tered Cameron Pace Group, which es­tab­lished a sub­sidiary in the port city of Tian­jin to de­velop three­d­i­men­sion film equip­ment and pro­vide train­ing for mak­ing 3D movies.

“One ser­vice the com­pany’s China sub­sidiary pro­vides is a tech­nol­ogy cer­tifi­cate sys­tem for 3D films that ac­tu­ally gen­er­ates more mar­ket value for the com­pany’s ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies,” Meng says.

In tele­vi­sion, an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar method of co­op­er­a­tion is for Chi­nese com­pa­nies to buy the Chi­nese pro­duc­tion rights from a for­eign re­al­ity show pro­gram, Yang says.

This co­op­er­a­tion model, Yang says, al­lows the Chi­nese part­ner to have the sup­port from the for­eign part­ner in the pro­duc­tion process to keep qual­ity con­sis­tent — and to learn from them.

One such ex­am­ple is The Voice of China, which is pro­duced in the same for­mat as The Voice of Hol­land, cre­ated by Talpa TV. Talpa TV sub­se­quently sold the China pro­duc­tion rights to Star Me­dia and helped it pro­duce a ver­sion for the Chi­nese au­di­ence in the same for­mat and of the same qual­ity as the orig­i­nal.

“The first se­ries of The Voice of China was pro­duced by Star in close co­op­er­a­tion with the Dutch ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Mark de Vink. For the sec­ond se­ries our ex­perts pro­vided con­sul­tancy ser­vices,” says Thomas Noter­mans, a spokesman for Talpa Hold­ing.

“In our in­dus­try, know-how and qual­ity of pro­duc­tions are much higher in Europe and the US than else­where. Since our mar­ket is small, we Dutch pro­duc­ers are very ex­pe­ri­enced in pro­duc­ing our for­mats abroad and keep­ing a good bal­ance be­tween the char­ac­ter of the orig­i­nal for­mat and lo­cal (cul­tural) dif­fer­ences,” Noter­mans says.

An­other in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­enc­ing grow­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties is pub­lish­ing, be­cause ur­ban­iza­tion has in­creased peo­ple’s aver­age lit­er­acy lev­els and grow­ing af­flu­ence has in­stilled in them a fas­ci­na­tion for a wider range of top­ics, says Isa Wong, pres­i­dent of Pear­son, Greater China.

“Ur­ban­iza­tion is re­ally draw­ing a lot more peo­ple into that read­ing pop­u­la­tion and cre­ates a big­ger size for the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try to ac­com­mo­date dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests in dif­fer­ent ar­eas,” Wong says.

“With eco­nomic means im­prov­ing, read­ers are ex­posed to a lot more things. In­ter­na­tional pub­lish­ers can bring a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, par­tic­u­larly for books such as travel, lan­guage learn­ing, mar­ket­ing, fi­nance and man­age­ment.”

Pear­son, which pub­lishes mainly ed­u­ca­tion books in China, al­ready has 6,000 em­ploy­ees here. It sells tens of mil­lions of books in China each year. Other in­ter­na­tional pub­lish­ers ac­tively ex­pand­ing into China in­clude Macmil­lan Pub­lish­ers, Ber­tels­mann AG, and HarperCollins Pub­lish­ers.

Tourism is also ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a growth, be­cause ur­ban­iza­tion in­creases peo­ple’s cu­rios­ity of the out­side world, says Dun Ji­dong, se­nior sales man­ager at the Chi­nese tourism op­er­a­tor Ctrip.com In­ter­na­tional Ltd.

“The life­style in ru­ral ar­eas is quite sim­ple, but in cities peo­ple in­creas­ingly look for a more so­phis­ti­cated life­style with more en­joy­ment. They want to ex­pe­ri­ence the for­eign life­style and try for­eign food.”

China’s ex­pen­di­ture on travel abroad to­taled $102 bil­lion last year, the high­est glob­ally, United Na­tions World Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion statis­tics say.

Dun says that in the early days of in­ter­na­tional travel, pack­aged tours where five or eight coun­tries are vis­ited to­gether were gen­er­ally pop­u­lar with the Chi­nese, be­cause they saw such pack­ages as eco­nom­i­cal in cost and time.

“As China ur­ban­izes, peo­ple’s de­mand for tourism be­comes more so­phis­ti­cated. More and more look for in-depth tours and in­creas­ingly they’d like to travel by them­selves as op­posed to with tour groups,” Dun says.

Tak­ing the Hong Kong mar­ket as an ex­am­ple, Dun says group tours that his com­pany hosts only rep­re­sent 10 per­cent of over­all trav­el­ing.

“They are not there just to see Hong Kong, they want to spend their day prop­erly with a re­laxed mind­set.”

Dun says that on aver­age many would choose to travel abroad twice a year, and also travel three to four times within China.

“Liv­ing in ur­ban cities can be tir­ing some­times, be­cause work tends to be busy and life­style is hec­tic, so re­lax­ation in the form of tourism has be­come pop­u­lar,” Dun says.

China’s ur­ban art scene has also grown over the years, to host many pres­ti­gious in­ter­na­tional art shows, fairs, gal­leries and auc­tion houses.

“More and more Chi­nese are de­vel­op­ing a knowl­edge and an in­ter­est in the arts,” says Hadrien De Mont­fer­rand, who opened an in­de­pen­dent con­tem­po­rary art gallery in Bei­jing us­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence he gained from work­ing in Euro­pean auc­tion houses for more than seven years.

He says that he opened the Hadrien de Mont­fer­rand Gallery be­cause he saw an op­por­tu­nity to build a bridge be­tween China and Europe’s art mar­kets.

He says over the years the gallery’s cus­tomer base has grown, par­tic­u­larly for young and en­thu­si­as­tic Chi­nese art col­lec­tors.

Mean­while, ur­ban China is wit­ness­ing an in­creas­ing num­ber of for­eign theme en­ter­tain­ment venues and at­trac­tions, such as theme parks, zoos and aquar­i­ums.

Dennis Speigel, pres­i­dent of In­ter­na­tional Theme Park Ser­vices Inc, a US con­sul­tancy, says that he be­lieves China will be­come the most the­mepark-pop­u­lated coun­try over the next 25 years be­cause of its dense pop­u­la­tion spread, es­pe­cially in ur­ban cities.

“Ur­ban­iza­tion fos­ters theme park de­vel­op­ment, typ­i­cally pro­vid­ing green­field sites on the fringes of cities which, through time and growth of the cities, makes the theme parks more ge­o­graph­i­cally cen­tral­ized,” Speigel says.

Ghas­san Ay­oubi, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at the Jor­dan-head­quar­tered dig­i­tal con­tent pro­duc­tion com­pany Ru­bi­con Group Hold­ing, says that in­ter­na­tional theme en­ter­tain­ment venues’ ex­per­tise in story telling gives them an ad­van­tage in the Chi­nese mar­ket.

Ay­oubi says that once the story ideas are put in place, in­ter­na­tional in­vestors should work on in­te­grat­ing their con­cepts and tech­nol­ogy with the lo­cal le­gal frame­work and sup­pli­ers in China to make sure the de­sired venue can be re­al­ized.

The most talked about for­eign theme park is the Dis­ney one set to open in Shang­hai in 2015 and, on a smaller scale, at­trac­tions such as Shang­hai’s Changfeng Ocean World and Madame Tus­sauds in Shang­hai and Hong Kong op­er­ated by the UK’s Mer­lin En­ter­tain­ment Group.

“China is a very ex­cit­ing and dy­namic mar­ket. The feed­back we have had, both from our ex­ist­ing at­trac­tions and from the re­search we have done across China, shows that Chi­nese tourists love our brands, and re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the qual­ity of what is on of­fer,” says Glenn Earlam, Mer­lin En­ter­tain­ment’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of mid­way at­trac­tions.

“The com­bi­na­tion of ur­ban­iza­tion and the phe­nom­e­nal and con­sis­tent eco­nomic growth in China has re­sulted in a grow­ing mid­dle class look­ing for new qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ences and ways in which to en­joy their grow­ing wealth,” Earlam says.

He says Mer­lin also plans to open a new Madame Tus­sauds in Wuhan this Oc­to­ber, and a clus­ter of three at­trac­tions in Chongqing, which are a Madame Tus­sauds, a Sea Life aquar­ium and a Le­goland Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre, from 2015 on­wards.

As ur­ban­iza­tion brings the Chi­nese wealth and taste, art and en­ter­tain­ment ac­tiv­i­ties are no longer con­sid­ered a lux­ury, but an in­te­gral part of peo­ple’s daily lives, as is re­flected by Chi­nese cities’ ar­chi­tec­ture, says Si­mon Poole, se­nior as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of Bri­tish ar­chi­tec­ture firm Benoy.

Poole says one ex­am­ple of a Benoy pro­ject is Rio Car­ni­val in Qing­dao, where his team has in­te­grated a se­ries of re­tail based streets and squares with per­for­mance spa­ces, pub­lic squares, a theme park, two ho­tels and a con­ven­tion cen­ter.

“This is not just a re­brand­ing ex­er­cise but a new ap­proach to the fun­da­men­tal de­sign of re­tail-led mixed use de­vel­op­ments,” Poole says.

For ex­am­ple, shop­ping malls in China are no longer just used for shop­ping, but for ur­ban peo­ple to “meet friends, watch films, ex­er­cise, stroll around and dine out”, he says, adding such a change cre­ates op­por­tu­ni­ties for Western ar­chi­tects.

“As the line be­tween re­tail and leisure blurs, Benoy’s award- win­ning in­no­va­tive ap­proach stands us in good stead for th­ese ex­cit­ing times ahead,” Poole says.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Changfeng Ocean World is a top draw in Shang­hai.

Glenn Earlam, Mer­lin En­ter­tain­ments’ man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of mid­way at­trac­tions

Dun Ji­dong, se­nior sales man­ager at Ctrip.com In­ter­na­tional Ltd

Stephen Wa­ley-Co­hen, pro­ducer of

TheMouse­trap

Isa Wong, pres­i­dent of Pear­son, Greater China

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