Audiences flock to Johnnie To film

HONG KONG — Johnnie To’s “Mad Detective” was the surprise winner at the Hong Kong box office this weekend, while “Beowulf” dropped to sixth place.

Although a few years ago, the pic’s four-day gross would have been deemed anemic, “Detective’s” HK$3.84 million ($495,000) was considered a great success by distrib China Star, which took it out on a midsized 30 prints. Comparison with “Beowulf’s” $487,000 opening two weeks earlier, on a wider circuit, also flatters “Detective.”

“We are very happy with these numbers,” To’s spokesman at producer Milky Way Image said. “Audiences need some brainpower and persistence to work out what is going on.”

The performance is good news for IFC, which recently acquired North American rights to the pic from its French sales house Celluloid Dreams.

But the good news may stop there. A Mainland Chinese release has not yet been confirmed, and there is no distrib yet signed up for an outing in Taiwan.

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