General Manager of MM2 Malaysia and Chief Operating Officer of mmCineplexes, Angelin Ong.
This article was originally published on Cinema Online on 7 October 2016.
Expanding from their initial base in Singapore, MM2 Asia has certainly come a long way since 2008. From producing dramas and movies, to distributing and exhibiting, the company has been providing the full range of services covering the entire filmmaking process. The extent of their business has stretched out to not only include Malaysia, but also to the neighbouring regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong and the PRC, and has maintained a strong network of relationships with key players of the region too. Besides filmmaking, their MM2 Entertainment arm has also gone on to acquire two other businesses including production of CGI and animation, as well as organising concerts in Singapore. "The business is more than just about movies and cinemas, because it is entertainment as a whole so the footprint is actually quite vast for us," said Angelin Ong, General Manager of MM2 Malaysia and Chief Operating Officer of mmCineplexes. "As we go along the way, we acquire more talents, so the business will definitely spread out to different areas as well," she continued. Let's take a brief look at how MM2 Entertainment evolved from a small producing company to one of the biggest Chinese-centric movie businesses in Singapore and Malaysia.
How MM2 Entertainment first started
When it started in 2008 in Singapore and 2009 in Malaysia, MM2 Entertainment's first foray into the entertainment business was mostly in coming up with long format content like dramas for TV stations.
They then stumbled into movies due to their close relationship with Singaporean director Jack Neo, as they were distributing his movies in Malaysia during the early days. After working with Jack Neo consistently, the company went into producing his movies as well, and also other movies across the region.
Since the company wasn't big enough to sustain a healthy and long run production line of work, the company decided to make more products with a more regional appeal.
Becoming a distributor
MM2 Entertainment went into acquisition very quickly as they have acquired the skills to distribute their own movies, and also films from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China. Also, on certain occasions, the company also acquires Hollywood movies but on a lesser basis.
Not only that, the company also distributes for local producers who dream of making movies.
"Because a lot of people have the dream to make a lot of movies and they have tons of ideas too. But they always stumble at the commercialisation of it, meaning the distribution of the movie," says Angelin.
Industry development programmes in Singapore
Since MM2 Entertainment is originally from Singapore, the company has been working very closely with the community in there. So, industry development programmes like scriptwriting classes, working hand-in-hand with Singapore's Media Development Authority (MDA), and trying to dig out the next generation of moviemakers and scriptwriters is all in line with their plans.
The company also tries to use more local artistes for their products, and on certain occasion, they are willing to take the chance by using completely fresh and new faces with great potential, and also new directors who have great stories to tell.
"Sometimes you will see that the movies we produce features artistes and directors who are fairly new. This is because if we keep using the very established ones, then the new ones would have no chance of coming out at all."
Chief Executive Officer of MM2 Entertainment, Melvin Ang.
On December 2014, MM2 Asia became the first local film production company to be listed on the Catalist Board of the Singapore Exchange Securities Trading Limited.
The achievement gave the company more resources and credibility in terms of commitment for the industry.
With that behind them, they went into the next phase which was to acquire their very own cinema. The company had bought over two Cathay Cineplexes in Malaysia, and have revamped them to their very own mmCineplexes
Not only that, the company had also completed the acquisition of another three cinemas up north in Malaysia, which were previously known as Mega Cineplex.
"The transitions are taking place slowly because we want to also tell people that while we acquired all these existing sites, we are trying to put in new things and trying to make a better entrance into the industry."
The brand new mmCineplexes at Damansara, Petaling Jaya.
Other than the cinema business
MM2 Entertainment has also acquired into two other businesses. Before owning its very own cinemas, the company obtained Vividthree Productions in Singapore, which is a company that specialises in CGI and animation and has been in the industry for more than 10 years.
The other acquisition made by MM2 was another Singapore company called UnUsUal, the biggest concert organiser in the country.
Angelin added that, even though concert is more on the music and entertainment part of the equation, sometimes the singers that they deal with also dabble in movies.
"So the business is not just about movies and cinemas, because it's an entertainment entity as a whole."
Vividthree did the CGI for the above movies.
Looking for opportunities in China
For now, MM2 have been producing movies in Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong with the help of their regional colleagues and partners, but they are aiming to target China as their next territory.
However the process it is not that easy as China is a very protected market, so it's not readily easy, even for local filmmakers.
"Some people think that if you make a film in the Mandarin language, then you can release it in China. That is totally not the case because there are a lot of other restrictions," says Angelin.
MM2 is currently working on a couple of Chinese-centric projects for China, but more of the investment side since they believe that they are stronger in the commercialisation area.
Genre with more sales potential
Back to movies, the highest grossing movie that MM2 Entertainment has ever distributed is "The Journey" which collected a total of RM17.16 million at the local box office.
Looking at the trend, the horror genre is also something that the team considers as a 'good genre' as it is easy to sell. But Angelin also mentioned that sometimes, the one that does well are the sleeper hits.
"For example, "Café Waiting Love". We expected it to do well, but we didn't expect for it to do that well. Although it was adapted from a famous book, the cast are all unknown, except for Vivian Sung. We thought that it would do good, because of the author. But when it made RM5 million, we were fairly surprised."
"The Journey" is the highest grossing movie that MM2 Entertainment ever distributed.
Future projects and plans for MM2 Entertainment and mmCineplexes
MM2 are looking for some potential opportunities outside of Malaysia, but nothing that they can share at this moment.
Currently, they are also working on the next Jack Neo movie in Singapore, but not much info on the movie can be revealed as of yet.
The company plans to continue investing on local talents with the help of government agencies, but the plan skews a little bit more towards Singapore because their ties with the local talent agencies there are stronger.
What's unique is that MM2 hopes that they can do a cross collaboration involving selling concert tickets at cinemas. So keep your eyes peeled for this one.
Thoughts on Malaysia reaching a milestone of 1,000 screens this year
Angelin feels that Malaysia has yet to reach the desired saturation as compared to South Korea, especially in terms of frequency of the people watching a movie.
"While we have 1,000 screens across Malaysia, we still have a lot of suburbs and other areas that are still not quite covered. I think the next phase of growth is going into the lesser populated areas and not the city centers anymore."
She believes that there are still some movie lovers from the outskirts that would love to watch a movie, but wouldn't want to travel far for it. With that in mind, she is confident that the number of screens will increase even more in the future.
"I feel that the movie-going trend is not dying down anytime too soon. It's just about what kind of offering there is out there. And with Hollywood coming up with more sequels and new movies, not to mention regional and local productions, there's going to be more and more content. So it will definitely grow some more."
Angelin Ong at MM2 Entertainment's Malaysia office.