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Lull gives HK films a chance

Slow down of U.S. fare offer box office break

Local rights owners used a rare lull in the tide of Hollywood summer blockbusters to distribute a clutch of Hong Kong movies — to mixed effect.

Best performer was “Simply Actors,” a local pic that defied its cop comedy genre by delivering series of intelligent laughs at the expense of the police and acting professions. Pic logged second place in the Hong Kong chart, trailing in the wake of “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” in its second frame, but outbidding “Ocean’s Thirteen” in its third.

“Actors” was released June 19, rather than Hong Kong’s normal Thursday opening, in order to catch a local holiday, and its seven-day figures to Monday show a cume of HK$5.2 million ($667,000).

Produced and handled by local distrib Golden Scene, “Actors” comfortably beat the other local titles including “Eye in the Sky,” the high- profile helming debut of Johnnie To associate Yau Na-hoi. “Eye” preemed in Berlin and was the gala opener of the Hong Kong festival in March and this month’s Shanghai fest, but only stole $280,000 in fourth spot.

The other openers “Zodiac” and “Wild Hogs” neither dazzled nor revved up many fans in Hong Kong. They opened in sixth and ninth places and delivered $118,000 and $39,500 respectively in their first five days.

Local titles “Mister Cinema” and “Kidnap” placed in fifth and eighth with five-day figures of $171,000 and $93,600, for 12-day cumes of $351,000 and $263,000 respectively.

“These are not very impressive figures by any film,” said Woody Tsung, head of the Motion Picture Industry Assn. “It is the beginning of the summer holidays and a lot of producers have been waiting for this moment to release their pictures. But only one, ‘Mister Cinema,’ really had to take this week. The others were all making use of the break between the last wave of Hollywood pictures and the next really big one ‘Harry Potter.’ ”

Helmed by Samson Chiu, “Mister Cinema” rambles through 40 years of Hong Kong history and the timing of its release sees it line up with 10th anniversary celebrations of territory’s handover from British to Chinese ownership.

“Actors” opened on 29 screens and edged up to 31 and enjoyed comfortably the best five-day screen average ($20,400) of any film on release. Despite that, Golden Scene topper Winnie Tsang was not confident of being able to hold on to pic’s playdates.

“I think we will have fewer screens in the second week as both ‘Hooked on You’ and ‘Shrek 3’ are opening and ‘Die Hard 4’ will have sneak previews at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.,” she said.

“Hooked” is a heartwarming local comedy with major Cantopop stars Miriam Yeung and Eason Chan as rival fishmongers fighting to stave off a threat from a nearby supermarket.

“Live Free or Die Hard” will even seek some extra local traction as it reps the first Hollywood lead role for Maggie Q, the Asian-American star who started her career with half a dozen Hong Kong movies.

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