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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Niche movies get the thumbs-up

Ranging from concert films to operas, these films are a cheaper option to the real thing
The Straits Times - April 11, 2012
By: Boon Chan
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Niche movies get the thumbs-up Showing: The opera Madam Butterfly 3D. -- PHOTO: CATHAY-KERIS FILMS

Mention niche releases and one immediately thinks of arthouse films. But in recent months, niche releases in Singapore have expanded to include concert films, children's flicks and even operas.

Last year, cinema chain Golden Village released more than eight such titles including concerts by Japanese pop diva Ayumi Hamasaki and American grunge band Pearl Jam as well as The Phantom Of The Opera At The Royal Albert Hall, which marked the 25th anniversary of the well-loved stage musical.

In the same period, Cathay Cineplexes brought in the animation Thomas & Friends: Misty Island Rescue (2010) as well as the child-friendly Barney: Big World Adventure The Movie (2011).

A Cathay spokesman says: 'A niche movie title usually comes in one print and appeals to a specific target audience, for example, opera aficionados or families with young children. These titles are shown on the big screen for two to six weeks, depending on the demand from the audiences.'

There is a growing trend for such releases, though a Golden Village spokesman adds: 'For Singapore, we are still exploring to see if the audiences here are receptive to such content playing in the cinemas.'

Similarly, Shaw Theatres is also at the exploratory stage at the moment though Mr Terence Heng, vice-president of media at Shaw Organisation, points out that they have previously screened alternative content such as the 2002 Fifa World Cup finals.

In order for such limited releases to turn a profit, the GV spokesman adds: 'We'll watch our marketing budget very closely for such releases and publicise them via traditional and online media and other social media platforms.'

He notes that most of the releases have made a small profit.

The 88-minute concert movie Super Junior Super Show 3 3D ran for two weeks last September and earned $200,000 at the local box office.

And the 'successful run' of Cathay's Carmen 3D last April took in more than $200,000. It achieved a 50 per cent average occupancy while regular halls average a 40 per cent occupancy annually.

The support of hardcore fans certainly helps in the case of concert movies. For example, the local fan club of the Korean boyband Super Junior block-booked 556 seats.

Ms Eurica Yee, an event and marketing executive in her early 30s, says: 'Nothing beats the actual full-scale concert with real-life performances, fireworks, A-class sound and lighting effects. However, the 3-D movie is much more affordable for all.'

She points out that a ticket to the movie costs $30 compared to $231 for a concert ticket. But she adds: 'However short it may be, it's enough to send fans screaming and cheering throughout the whole movie screening.'

There are more such niche releases to look forward to in the months ahead.

Cathay is bringing in the opera Madam Butterfly 3D (April 18 to 28), anime Naruto: Blood Prison (from April 19) as well as family-friendly fare Thomas And Friends: Days Of The Diesel (May/June), Barney & Friends (August/September) and Thomas & Friends: Blue Mountain Mystery (December).

The Cathay spokesman says: 'We believe that as long as we can secure content that is relevant to our audiences and is in sync with today's pop culture, this trend will continue to grow and complement the slate of releases from Hollywood, Hong Kong, China and India.'

Golden Village, meanwhile, has lined up Los Angeles Philharmonic With Gustavo Dudamel (GV VivoCity, Saturday, 7pm). It is also in the midst of confirming a Korean docu-concert as well as a couple of Japanese animations.

While niche releases make their way here, at least one was filmed here and has been shown abroad.

The Berlin-based EuroArts Music production department filmed Berliner Philharmoniker - A Musical Journey In 3D, a recording of the world-famous orchestra's performance at the Esplanade Concert Hall in November 2010.

EuroArts Music says it is planning to release this on Blu-ray 3-D in Singapore but there is no fixed date as yet.


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