Homegrown comedy and action rule summer box office

Territory report: Hong Kong

Though U.S. blockbusters typically fare well at the summer box office, this has been an unusual year in some ways.

Local top grosser “The Twins Effect” beat out much-hyped blockbusters like “The Matrix Reloaded” and “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.” Local indie comedy “Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat,” from newcomer Barbara Wong, performed better than the heavily marketed “Charlie’s Angels 2: Full Throttle.”

Hong Kong is pumping out fewer pictures than in the glory years past — less than 70 are expected this year, according to Raymond Wong, chairman of the Movie Producers and Distributors Assn. — and yet audiences seem to be choosing them over Hollywood fare. This is good news for local producers but distributors have mixed emotions.

“Local films seemed to do better this year, which was good but not good for me,” says Winnie Tsang, managing director of indie distributor Golden Scene, whose biggest summer grosser, “Spy Kids 3-D,” brought in a disappointing $723,840.

Golden Scene this year teamed up with exhib Newport Circuit and distribbers Panorama Entertainment and Edko Films to form Go Films Distribution, a company specifically aimed at distributing local films.

Given these movements, Hong Kong pic buyers attending Mifed will be trying to keep up with the changing tastes of fickle auds while finding a winning strategy.

Tsang says she’s learned something from this year’s hits. “I’m looking to buy movies with ‘special’ subjects,” she says. “Audiences aren’t looking for straight action, they want stories with a twist.”

Audrey Lee, acquisition manager for Edko Films, says her company has seen better years. “We’re looking for something suitable for the Hong Kong market but those films are becoming less available because some have already been acquired by (bigger local distributors),” she notes.