Exploring Investment Opportunities in Vietnam’s Film Industry

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The Vietnamese film “Tet o lang Dia Nguc” (Hellbound Village) occupied the top spot for weeks in Vietnam on streaming platforms Netflix and K+ Original, proof that Vietnamese films are becoming increasingly popular. This presents myriad investment opportunities for foreign movie makers, investors, and distributors. Here’s where they are.


When compared to other Southeast Asian countries, the Vietnamese film market lags behind in terms of film production and revenue. Thailand, for instance, hosts a significant number of foreign film productions, with 222 films made in the country . This brought in revenue of 1.84 billion baht (US$52.2 million), an increase of 132.8 million baht (US$3.7 million), compared to the previous year. In contrast, over the last decade, Vietnam has had only 256 foreign film projects according to the . Furthermore, Vietnam’s film consumer market is relatively undeveloped. In Indonesia, with its large population of approximately 270 million people, it is estimated by that revenue from movie ticket sales will reach US$131.80 million by 2023. While Vietnam has a population of nearly 100 million, its movie market is only a fraction of the size, with an expected revenue of this year. Nevertheless, domestically produced films in Vietnam have achieved substantial revenue. For example, a handful of local films have generated hundreds of billions of Vietnamese dong in revenue, according to in the past few years. “The House of No Man” took in VND 458 billion (US$18.9 million), “Dad, I’m Sorry” made VND 395 billion (US$16.2 million), and “Face Off 6: The Ticket Of Destiny” recorded revenue of VND 272 billion (US$11.2 million). These positive indicators suggest that the Vietnamese film industry holds promise and with the right investment strategy, foreign firms could profit handsomely from the Vietnamese film market.

Investment opportunities

Distribution

According to , the revenue in the Box Office sector in Vietnam is projected to have an annual growth rate of 5.95 percent from 2023 to 2028. This growth trajectory is anticipated to result in a market volume of approximately US$54.76 million by 2028. Foreign entities interested in investing in Vietnamese cinema establishments can do so under the . There are two primary methods for collaboration and investment in the film industry:
  • Establishing an organization with foreign investment, where the foreign capital does not exceed 51 percent of the total capital; or
  • Signing a Business Cooperation contract, which enables foreign entities to enter into contractual agreements with Vietnamese partners for film production and distribution.
Notably, South Korean companies CGV and Lotte have swiftly expanded their presence in Vietnam’s cinema industry. They have accomplished this by establishing theaters across the country and becoming key film distributors. These foreign companies’ ability to generate substantial profits from the Vietnamese market underscores the lucrative nature of the film industry in Vietnam. As the market continues to expand, there will be ample opportunities for both domestic and foreign companies to capitalize on the growing demand for quality films.

Visual effects

The rising demand for films that explore science fiction and superhero themes has created a growing need for unique and realistic visual effects (VFX). In response to this demand, many foreign companies have chosen Vietnam as the location for creating the cinematic effects for their films. These companies often hail from renowned film industries, such as Korea and Hollywood. One of the reasons behind this choice is that Vietnam offers high-quality VFX services that are on par with more advanced countries, while also providing a competitive cost advantage. Additionally, the country’s VFX industry benefits from a growing pool of talented Vietnamese professionals who have been involved in various international projects. Sparx*, a notable VFX studio, stands as an excellent example of Vietnam’s contribution to large-scale cinematic works. The studio has been involved in the production of blockbuster franchises, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, and Transformers. In the widely popular Netflix series “Squid Game,” which was made in Korea, several Vietnamese names appeared in the Digital Artists section of the credits.

Infrastructure development

The cinema industry in Vietnam presents lucrative opportunities for investors to build and upgrade cinemas across the country. By investing in such infrastructure, the overall cinema experience can be improved, attracting more audiences who are willing to pay for a premium film experience. One recent example of cinema development is Lotte’s opening of a highly modern theater complex at Lotte Mall Tay Ho in Hanoi. This complex boasts 1007 seats, including two high-class Charlotte screening rooms with private waiting rooms and complimentary beverages. With its large scale and high standards, Lim Ki Wan, head of Lotte Cinema Vietnam, expressed his vision for the company to become a key player in big-screen experiences. “We are planning to become a leading theater complex that will lead Vietnam in how to build modern facilities and interiors while combining theater operating know-how accumulated over many years,” he told . Advancements in film technologies also provide opportunities for cinema investors. By investing in cutting-edge equipment, such as digital projectors and audio systems, the quality of film screenings can be enhanced, creating a more captivating viewing experience for audiences. The impact of modern formats in the Vietnamese market can be seen in Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” documentary. Screenings of this film in IMAX in Vietnam generated significant interest, often leading to overcrowded theaters. The documentary has (approximately US$800,000) within 17 days of being released in Vietnam.

Ancillary businesses

Tourism and events

Developing film-themed attractions, organizing film festivals, and offering film-related tours can appeal to both local and international visitors, and can create a profitable venue stream for investors. This strategy has proven successful in other countries, such as Thailand, where the filming locations of popular dramas and movies have drawn countless tourists. For instance, historical sites in Ayutthaya, Phuket Island, and Bangkok have become popular destinations after the success of “King the Land” from Korea, “Love Destiny 2” from Thailand, and “The Hangover Part II” from Hollywood. This phenomenon has contributed significantly to Thailand’s tourism industry, with the government reporting . This is in part a result of effective campaigns by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the government’s attractive policies for international filmmakers. Vietnam, with its diverse potential in nature and tourism, can learn from Thailand’s experience and further develop its film-related tourism industry. One local example is the blockbuster movie “Kong: Skull Island”. Following the film’s release, various locations in Vietnam, such as the Tu Lan cave system, Phong Nha cave in Quang Binh, Trang An ecological area, Tam Coc, and Van Long Lagoon in Ninh Binh, as well as Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh, all became popular tourist hotspots.

Technical training

Investing in film training institutes or academies could be another option for investors as the demand for skilled professionals in the film industry continues to grow. By offering specialized training programs in areas such as directing, screenwriting, cinematography, and film production, these institutes can groom aspiring filmmakers to fulfill the industry’s talent requirements. Moreover, the importance of film training and education is recognized by the Vietnamese government. The encourages training and technology transfer to develop human resources in Vietnamese cinema, including cooperation with foreign countries. That said, in Vietnam, film training is an area that has been relatively untouched by schools and educational institutions. Currently, there are only a few options available for individuals interested in pursuing a career in the film industry. One example is RMIT University’s Bachelor of Digital Film and Video course. However, this is just one of very few. This, however, presents a unique opportunity for investors to enter the market and enjoy a first-mover advantage.

What do investors need to pay attention to?

Cultural and censorship issues

Investors looking to enter the Vietnamese film industry should be aware of the guidelines and regulations that govern the content of films. Vietnamese censors are sensitive to topics such as politics, religion, and social issues. Understanding and complying with these guidelines is crucial to avoid conflicts and ensure a film’s success. For example, in 2019 cinema chain CGV was fined VND 170 million (US$7,030) for screening the movie “Abominable” in which there is a map with the “nine-dash Line”. Similarly, the movie “Barbie” was banned over a perceived depiction of China’s controversial claim over the South China Sea. Paying attention to cultural sensitivities can not only prevent miss-steps but may also pay dividends. Vietnam has a rich cultural heritage, and local audiences often appreciate films that reflect their values, traditions, and history. Investors should carefully consider this when developing film concepts, storylines, and characters.

Competitive market

The Vietnamese film market is highly competitive, particularly due to the presence of foreign cinema chains. According to , CGV Cinema holds the largest market share with 83 branches, accounting for approximately 45 percent of the market. Its Korean rival, Lotte, comes in second with a market share of 26 percent. Collectively, these two Korean giants dominate more than 70 percent of the cinema market in Vietnam. The remaining pie is divided among local businesses Galaxy Cinema, BHD Star, and Beta Cinemas. The significant market dominance of foreign competitors highlights the intense competition faced by investors entering the Vietnamese film market.

Moving forward

The Vietnamese film market holds immense potential for further development, with numerous untapped opportunities. However, to compete effectively, investors need to plan carefully and ensure they understand the local market dynamics and the competitive landscape. Along with that, the content must align with local expectations to avoid reputational concerns. Foreign investors should thus consider partnerships and collaborations with local film production companies, distributors, and content creators. As investors venture into the vibrant Vietnamese film market, seeking professional guidance and support can significantly enhance their prospects for success. In this respect, Dezan Shira & Associates, with its extensive consulting experience in Vietnam and a team of seasoned experts, well-versed in the intricacies of the local film industry, stands ready to assist.

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