HONG KONG — It is going to be a hot summer in Singapore. Especially for local films.
The releases of four Singapore-made movies are packed into the space of the next three weeks. That would be unremarkable in a big movie-producing country like France, Japan or the U.S., but even after a growth spurt, Singapore only made 14 features last year.
So why the crush in early August? After all, for all that the government is giving generous financial encouragement to the film industry through the Media Development Agency and Singapore Film Commission, locally made films last year earned a small 3% slice of the Lion City’s B.O. with a combined S$10 million ($7.4 million).
Much of the crunch is due to ghosts — in fact, three of the four local titles have ghostly themes.
In much of Southeast Asia it is believed that the seventh month of the lunar year (roughly coinciding with August) is the time when the gates of hell are flung open, allowing ghosts to wander freely on earth.
Lim Teck, g.m. of producer-distributor Scorpio East, says the casts of “Money No Enough 2” (opening July 31) and “12 Lotus” (opening Aug. 14) will participate in events during the Hungry Ghost Festival, providing good promotional tie-ins.
In between, on Aug. 7, is the release of documentary “A Month of Hungry Ghosts,” helmed by Tony Kern and produced through his U.S.-Singaporean shingle Mythopolis Pictures. Obviously the lunar calendar makes ghost-themed movies a natural fit. But this year it also coincides neatly with the Aug. 9 National Day holiday.
“It’s the directors and producers’ view that the patriotic mood in the month of August makes it an ideal moment to release homegrown movies,” Lim adds.
The fourth local pic to get an outing is “Kallang Roar,” a semi-docu set in the 1980s about the National Stadium that is to be torn down this year and rebuilt. Shaw Releasing will unspool it Aug. 21.
Last year, helmer Royston Tan, who directed upcoming “12 Lotus,” had a hit with “881,” which also had a Hungry Ghost theme. But until a few years ago, releasing in the seventh month was considered taboo. What helped to change that was release of Kelvin Tong’s horror pic “The Maid,” a hit in August 2005.
Song Ting, of distrib Golden Village, which is releasing all three “hungry ghost” titles this season, says the formerly cursed month is becoming a good times for local films, pointing out that “Singapore Dreaming” did about $370,000 in 2006, while last year “881” surprised by beating “Rush Hour 3” in its opening weekend.