Crafting a film in Vietnam can set you back anywhere between VND5-55 billion (US$200,000-2.2 million).

Yet, domestic producers confess that churning out a high-quality product with a budget shy of VND20 billion ($800,300) proves challenging.

Ngo Thi Bich Hanh, co-founder and vice-chairwoman of multimedia behemoth BHD, imparted at the industry forum ‘Ho Chi Minh City Cinema: Vision and Development Strategy’ held on Sunday that Vietnam stood tall at number two in terms of box-office takings in Southeast Asia last year.

Indonesia held the top spot, boasting a populace of 277 million, dwarfing Vietnam’s 100 million. 

Vietnam’s box-office receipts surpassed Thailand’s by a factor of 2.5, despite Thailand’s well-established cinematic landscape in the region.

Domestically produced films also claimed a significant share of the blockbuster pie in Vietnam.

Last year, six Vietnamese-made flicks graced the top 10 box-office hits in the country.

Ngo Thi Bich Hanh, co-founder and vice-chairwoman of multimedia giant BHD, shares insights on Vietnam’s cinema sector. Photo: T.T.D. / Tuoi Tre

However, Vietnam’s cinema industry is not without its weaknesses. At present, close to 50 Vietnamese companies dabble in movie production, with over half producing a mere single film each.

Vietnam managed to produce just 23 films in 2023. While the number is projected to climb to 30 this year, it remains a modest figure.

According to Hanh, Vietnam’s cinema industry ranks among the world’s fastest-growing, clocking in at a steady 21 percent annual growth rate over the past several years.

With its substantial population and burgeoning economy, Vietnam harbors the potential to ascend into the ranks of the top 10 countries with the highest box-office revenue in the foreseeable future.

Yet, film production and cinema operation expenses cast a long shadow over Vietnam, resulting in meager profits, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hanh cited ‘Dat Rung Phuong Nam,’ or ‘Song of the South’ in English, as a case in point, stating that the film demanded an investment of $2.2 million.

She attributed the exorbitant film production costs to the dearth of dedicated film studios. Sets are often dismantled once filming wraps.

A scene from the trailer of ‘Dat Rung Phuong Nam,’ or ‘Song of the South’ in English, a movie that carried a hefty production price tag of $2.2 million

Nguyen Hoang Hai, distribution director at South Korea-based cinema chain CJ CGV Vietnam, pointed to the shortage of cinema infrastructure as a factor limiting Vietnam’s annual film output to less than 40.

Capital for reinvestment in the cinema industry holds paramount importance, Hai emphasized.

At the HIFF 2024 event, French Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City Emmanuelle Pavillon-Grosser revealed that her residence served as a filming location for scenes in Vietnam’s Cong Tu Bac Lieu (Bac Lieu Mandarin’s Son) movie. 

She disclosed that the consulate general had also sponsored VND3 billion ($119,800) for Vietnamese films, including Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell, which captured the Caméra d’Or, an award bestowed at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival for the most outstanding debut feature film and generated box-office revenue of $500,000 in France.

Nguyen Quang Thanh, deputy general director of Ho Chi Minh City Finance and Investment State-Owned Company, reported that the municipal People’s Council had greenlighted a roster of cinema projects eligible for public funding and extended preferential lending rates to select film producers.

The HIFF 2024 commenced on Saturday last week and will run until Saturday this week.