LCQ17: Development of cinemas in Hong Kong
Following is a question by the Hon Tang Ka-piu and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (April 29):
The Chief Executive announced in his Policy Address this year that the Government would consider reserving space for cinemas in major cultural and entertainment development areas, and explore ways to facilitate cinema development through land sale and planning. I have learnt that there is general expectation among members of the film industry that such initiatives can reverse the continuous downward trend in the number of cinemas and rectify the uneven distribution of cinemas, thus facilitating the long term development of the film industry. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it knows the number of cinemas and their total seating capacity in each of the past 10 years (set out the information in a table by District Council district);
(2) whether it will consider changing the existing classification under the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines to reclassify cinemas as "cultural facilities" instead of "retail facilities"; whether it will reserve sites for building cinemas when developing new towns, or include clauses requiring the grantees to build cinemas when putting up land for sale; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether it will take specific measures to support the development of cinemas, e.g. (i) assisting the film industry in setting up cinemas in districts (e.g. North District and Tai Po) where there is a lack of such facilities, (ii) extending the validity period of the places of public entertainment licence (cinema/theatre), (iii) reducing the annual fees of such licences, and (iv) streamlining the procedure for licence renewal; if it will, of the details of the measures and the implementation timetable; if not, the reasons for that?
In the 2015 Policy Address, the Chief Executive announced that the Government would continue to promote the development of Hong Kong's film industry through a four-pronged strategy. The initiatives include encouraging more local film production; nurturing production talent; promoting film appreciation among students and young people to build up audiences; and showcasing and promoting the brand of "Hong Kong Films" in the Mainland, Taiwan and overseas markets, facilitating the participation of local films in international film festivals, and helping to drive Hong Kong's development as a film financing platform in Asia. As regards the support for the development of cinemas, the Government will consider reserving space for cinemas in major cultural and entertainment development areas, and will explore ways to facilitate cinema development through land sale and planning.
My reply to the question raised by the Hon Tang Ka-piu is as follows:
(1) We can only provide the number of cinemas and seats by District Council (DC) district as at end-2014, which is at Annex 1. The total number of cinemas and seats by year between 2005 and 2014 is at Annex 2.
(2) The Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines (HKPSG) stipulates the general guidelines for determining the scale, location and site requirements of various land uses, community facilities and infrastructures according to the population and other factors. The relevant guidelines aim to serve as general reference to ensure that, during the planning stage, the Government will reserve adequate land for social and economic development and provide appropriate public facilities to meet the needs of the public.
According to the prevailing HKPSG, cinemas operating on a commercial basis are categorised under retail activities, and they can be located within land-use zones planned for various permitted commercial uses, including retail use. Generally speaking, the provision of commercial and retail facilities should be market-led and the Government does not have planning standards for cinemas. The arts venues in the context of the HKPSG refer to the physical accommodation for the undertaking of arts activities but exclude commercial-oriented and profit making entertainment venues such as cinema.
When the Government plans for the major cultural and entertainment development areas, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) will work with the relevant bureaux and departments to explore the reservation of space for cinemas in these areas and study ways to facilitate cinema development through land sale conditions and/or planning. The CEDB is open to suggestions on the initiatives.
(3) As shown in Annex 1, there is no commercial cinema in certain DC districts. The location of commercial cinemas is a commercial matter decided by the operators concerned. It would not be appropriate for the Government to be involved in the locational matters. However, in view of the demand of cinema-goers in some districts, the CEDB will explore with relevant bureaux and departments the provision or upgrading of screening facilities in certain government premises to facilitate the conduct of film screening activities by various organisations in the community.
Issues relating to places of public entertainment licence (cinema/theatre) are under the policy purview of the Home Affairs Bureau. The Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance (the Ordinance) aims to ensure public safety through the regulation of places for public entertainment activities. The arrangement of licence renewal at regular intervals is required under the Ordinance to ensure the compliance with relevant safety requirements by those premises. The current licence fee for cinemas under the Ordinance ranges from $13,775 to 24,785 per annum (depending on the number of persons to be accommodated). In the 2013-14 Budget Speech, the Financial Secretary pointed out the need to review fees and charges systematically for upholding the "user pays" principle. In this connection, the Government is now conducting a comprehensive review on the licence fees required under the Ordinance on the basis of the "user pays" principle, including the review on the fee structure and enhancement procedures. The fee review also covers the procedures of and charges for licence renewal.