CHINA BEAT: How d'you like them apples?
While the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival got underway this week, with its fantastic selection of 75 films, both old and new, from every corner of the continent, the big news at cinemas in the city was yesterday's box office figures. Four films opened on 20 October: Ryan Gosling star vehicle CRAZY STUPID LOVE, horror sequel PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3, Johnnie To's highly acclaimed new financial thriller LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE, starring Lau Ching Wan and Richie Ren, and also Taiwanese teen romance YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE. The directorial debut of popular novelist Giddens, APPLE has been making headlines all summer long, breaking Taipei box office records and selling out numerous preview screenings in Hong Kong over the past few months. The film opened on 59 screens yesterday and while it was expected to do well this weekend, nobody could have predicted the first day figures.
APPLE played 303 times yesterday and raked in a colossal HK$1,397,571 (US$180,000), more than every film combined managed to pull in the day before, which included the likes of REAL STEEL, which has been doing swift business since opening two weeks ago. This figure also represented 50.6% of the day's takings at the Hong Kong box office, meaning it out-sold everything else playing around town. Combine yesterday's figure with its takings from previews and YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE has already made close to HK$2.5million and should easily cross the HK$5million mark over the weekend.
Taiwan's other big domestic hit of the summer, quirky comedy THE KILLER WHO NEVER KILLS is playing at the HKAFF and will most likely see a regular release in the near future. Also based on a Giddens novel, the film is directed by Jimmy Wan and the bizarrely monikered Lee Fung-Bok@pple, and stars Hong Kong favourite Chrissie Chau in a supporting role. What is more frustrating for international fans of Taiwanese Cinema is that while these popular hits are being made readily available, war epic WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW: SEEDIQ BALE will be playing without English subtitles. Even when both parts of the film go on general release in November and December, they will do so with Traditional Chinese subtitles only, in an effort to strengthen overseas sales of the film.
It's not difficult to see why. There will be little demand for APPLE and KILLER in the international market place, and these modestly budgeted teen flicks have doubtless recouped their production costs already. SEEDIQ BALE, however, is Taiwan's most expensive movie to-date and so needs to sell in other markets if it has any hope of turning a profit. The real victim in all this is yours truly, however, who as an English-speaking Hong Kong resident, may well have to import a UK or US DVD release if and when one ever materializes, perhaps a year or more down the line. Ironic, considering how many column inches we have devoted to the film up to now.
North of the border, Ching Siu Tung's THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE has retaken the top spot at the Chinese box office, adding a further US$4.5 million to its already impressive box office haul. The big new US title to open last week was Neil Burger's LIMITLESS, which debuted in third place, behind Gordon Chan's MURAL. The Bradley Cooper vehicle pulled in US$3.5 million over its opening weekend, selling close to 750,000 tickets around the country. The only other English language new entry was LAST NIGHT, starring Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington, opening in 6th place, with just US$750,000. New Chinese chart entries include cheapo ghost movie WHO UNDER THE BED, directed by Niu Chaoyang and starring He Jing and Guo Xiaoran, and German co-production I PHONE YOU, which boasts an international cast that includes Florian Lukas (GOODBYE, LENIN!) and Jiang Yiyan (REIGN OF ASSASSINS).
The film tells the story of a Chinese city girl who travels to Berlin to meet her new jet-set boyfriend, only to find herself stuck with his German bodyguard/chauffeur (Lukas) for the weekend instead. During her stay, Ling (Jiang) explores the city in true picture postcard style and romance blossoms between her and the handsome foreigner. Co-directed by Peter Schwartzkopff and Tang Dan, the film seems to be shamelessly targeting China's affluent and adventurous middle class. With production companies opening new offices in Mainland China almost every week now, we can expect to see many more of these kinds of co-productions appearing in the future. Whether the films themselves have the strength to travel, however, remains to be seen.
Around the Internet: