HONG KONG — With about two months remaining in 2008, the Hong Kong box office for the year stands at an estimated $117 million and is set to eclipse 2007’s cume of $123 million.
Stellar B.O. results mean little, unfortunately, to English-language indie pics. The local theatrical market still shares most of its revenue between big Hollywood studio releases and just-as-big Chinese-language tentpoles such as “Red Cliff” and Maggie Q starrer “Three Kingdoms.” What’s left goes to locally produced Cantonese-language fare and, in a continuing trend, Japanese genre imports.
Other indie imports still bring up the rear. Case in point, the highest indie title to chart this year is a pic that was a studio release Stateside: Hilary Swank starrer “P.S. I Love You.” It ranked 36th with a $890,000 cume.
All is not lost, though, because a number of tenacious local indie distribs keep releasing difficult titles in spite of the low returns. Of course, the ones that persevere distribute a range of titles. Golden Scene, headed by maverick buyer Winnie Tsang, scored a hit with the dance movie “Step Up 2 The Streets” ($1.05 million) but also released titles such as “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” ($29,700, three prints). Similarly, Lark Films did well with “Sex and the City” ($2 million) and also released “Run, Fatboy, Run” ($98,000, nine prints).
A stagnant DVD market and little support for ancillary digital distribution make things tougher for indies. “We are still in a wait-and-see situation with Internet and VOD,” says Lark Films’ Jennifer Hung. “So far, the market is not as big as it should be. We’ve started looking into the possibility of Internet distribution, but the market is still immature.”
Buyers will be more cautious at the American Film Market. “Most of the time, we prebuy, and it will be risky because we have to project to about 12 months from now, when the economy might be really bad,” says Hung, adding that last year’s AFM seemed decidedly lackluster with a less-busy trade floor than in most years. “It is still a buyer’s market.”
$118 million (to Oct. 12)
“CJ7” ($11.5 million)
“Burn After Reading” (Golden Scene)
“The Sniper” (Media Asia)
“W.” (Emperor Entertainment)
“Tazza 2” (Golden Network)
“I Love You Phillip Morris” (Lark Films)