Thailand's status as Asean's leading movie shooting location is under threat as Malaysia ramps up special tax holidays and other incentive packages to lure foreign film crews as well as opening integrated media production studio facilities.
''Malaysia is emerging as our strong rival. Apart from impressive rebates and other incentives, the presence of Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios also boosts Malaysia's competitiveness," said Ubolwan Sucharitakul, director of the Thailand Film Office (TFO).
Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios intends to be a world-class film and TV studio facility for Asia-Pacific. It is an alliance between Britain's Pinewood Studios Group and the Malaysian government's investment holding arm Khazanah Nasional Bhd.
Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios will be completed by mid-year and offer 9,300 square metres of film stages, 2,200 sq m of TV studios, offices, workshops and post-production facilities. Ms Ubolwan said film producers in Malaysia are eligible to claim a tax rebate of up to 30% of production costs. Thailand only offers a personal income tax exemption for foreign actors, and that is due to expire in December 2015.
Ms Ubolwan said the government agreed to consider offering more incentives to promote international film shoots here, but the move was shelved due to the House dissolution. The TFO revealed several film productions postponed their planned shoots in Thailand in the first quarter of the year due to the prolonged political impasse. In January and February, the country earned 600 million baht from foreign films shot here.
This year, the department expects revenue from international shoots to increase by 15% to 2.5 billion baht. Authorities have attended road shows at international film festivals in Cannes, Busan, Tokyo and Dubai to promote Thailand's movie locations. The Thailand International Film Destination Festival 2014, to be held from April 20-29, will screen movies shot on Thailand as well as a short film contest open to international entrants. Some 48 teams have already applied to shoot short films under the theme of Thai tourism sites.