Internationally-acclaimed directors Takeshi Kitano from Japan and Kim Ki-duk from South Korea said at the Venice Film Festival that making art house films in Asia is a daunting task.
With his bleak morality tale Pieta, Kim said he regretted that audiences at home still did not sufficiently appreciate his foreign award-winning work.
"The Korean film industry is still lacking compared to the European and American markets," said Kim, who despite having made 18 movies is still seen as something of an outsider in Korean cinema and has no formal schooling in film.
"They still view films as entertainment instead of looking at artistic value or social issues."
Kitano, who premiered his yakuza flick Outrage Beyond at the festival this week, went even further, saying art house cinema in Japan was in "dire" straits.
"You have to make a film like Avengers to get recognition," he said. "My Outrage Beyond is as close as you can get to an Avengers kind of movie so I am hoping to get a big audience with this one."
The veteran 65-year-old director - a former stand-up comedian and one of the biggest names in Japanese cinema over the past two decades - said half-jokingly that he was under pressure to make a big box office hit.
"My producers are in a difficult position these days because my films have performed so badly in recent years, so we had to make a hit. My worst fear is being asked to make a third sequel. That would be my worst nightmare."
Kitano added that some of the difficulties in making art house cinema in Japan were linked to a wider crisis in the cinema industry worldwide.
"Fewer people are going to the cinema these days. They would rather watch movies on their smartphones or on a computer," he said. "Maybe you don't need a filmmaker to make films any more, maybe you just need a computer programmer."
Kim said that part of the issue was that the market is skewed in favour of blockbusters and suggested that distributing art house via the internet could be a solution. But he added that the main problem was viewer attitudes.
"Audiences need to see that there is much more value to these films than just entertainment," said the 51-year-old director.