Asian buyers returned in relatively strong numbers this week to the American Film Market, the annual beachfront gathering in Santa Monica where foreign entertainment executives buy films for their theaters, TV channels and video stores.
Still, the number of Asian buyers is nowhere near what it was in the mid-1990s before the economy there began to slide.
Attendance at the film market, which ends today, is an important barometer of the health of the increasingly important foreign market for the U.S. film industry, which has been hurt by Asia's troubles.
Statistics from the American Film Marketing Assn., which organizes the event, show that the number of companies at the film market from Asia rose 7% to 135 while the number of individuals from Asia rose 4% to 323.
That's due mostly to a partial return of buyers from South Korea. Last year, scores of South Korean buyers of films stayed home because of the economic and currency problems there.
Jonathan Wolf, senior vice president of the association, said the Asian turnout was about what officials expected. He said the huge number of South Korean buyers who came to the market in the mid-1990s was "disproportionate to the size of Korea's economy and the size of its population."
Twice as many buyers from South Korea attended the film market in 1997 than did this year. Wolf said there was a glut then of new, small companies in South Korea trying to get a foothold in the business.
Overall, the number of companies at the film market was off 2% to 699 with the number of individuals down 6% to 1,449; the biggest drops came from such economically ailing countries as Brazil and Russia.