Taiwan auds seeing 'Double'

TAIPEI — Move over Hannibal Lecter; the Taiwanese thriller “Double Vision” has beat the serial killer at his own game. The Asian pic has out-distanced “Red Dragon” at the box office and fended off rival scarefest “Ghost Ship” to become a bona fide hit and the year’s highest-grossing Asian picture.

As of Nov. 11, “Double Vision” has grossed some $1.9 million islandwide. In comparison, “Red Dragon” has earned $1.5 million while playing a week longer. Co-produced by local production house Nan Fang Film Productions and Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia (CPFPA), “Double Vision” has hit upon the formula for success that has eluded most other Taiwanese projects.

Distribs and exhibs attribute the pic’s success to perfect timing, a strong marketing campaign, production values a cut above most Asian films, and a strong storyline aided by fine performances — a rare combination indeed from an industry that usually churns out small, art-house films.

Coming at the tail end of Ghost Month, a traditional Chinese month-long commemoration of the spirits, “Double Vision” offered moviegoers the scares they were looking for. Admittedly, it opened on Oct. 25 against weak competition and in the frames just before “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” which bows this weekend.

In addition, the picture benefited from the marketing muscle of CPFPA, which will release two other Chinese-language pictures this year. Strong word-of-mouth also translated into small weekly declines at the box office.

Ghost stories have done well this year. “The Eye,” another Chinese-language pic that opened during Ghost Month, ended its run with just over $1 million in the coffers.

“Double Vision” director Chen Kuo-fu claims that part of the success of his picture is due to the distinctly Asian bent of the story. “We have Hollywood production values, a tight story and smart script, but it has themes Asian audiences can identify with,” Chen says.

Carrying a $5 million price tag — the most expensive Taiwanese production to date — “Double Vision” features an international cast and crew, with post-production work done in Australia.

As one exhib bluntly states, “It looks like a Hollywood picture.”

Of course boffo returns in Taiwan hardly translate into coin abroad. Few expect “Double Vision” to have the crossover potential of CPFPA stablemate “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” but as “Double Vision” shows, Hollywood numbers are now within the sights of local productions.

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