The coronavirus outbreak caused a 72% slump in theatrical box office in Hong Kong last year. It also caused audiences in the city to embrace a more diverse selection of films, especially those from Asia.
Hong Kong traditionally has one of the world’s highest per capita cinema attendance rates. That means that in conventional years it usually ranks among the world’s top 20 box office markets, despite its lowly 7.5 million population.
Data published Monday by Hong Kong Box Office Ltd. showed gross revenues last year slumped to HK$536 million ($69.2 million), down from HK$1.92 billion ($248 million) in 2019 as releases dried up and social distancing measures cut into already limited seating capacity.
As different waves of virus infection hit the city, government ordered cinemas to close on three separate occasions in 2020. The latest enforced closure remains currently in effect and Hong Kong cinemas are dark.
“Tenet,” released in Hong Kong on Sept. 10, was the year’s highest-grossing title, earning HK$54.4 million ($7.02 million). But as Hollywood releases petered out, only three other Hollywood titles that released in January and February made it into the annual top ten: “1917,” “Dolittle,” and “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.”
The other spots in the city’s top ten belonged to two Hong Kong comedy-drama titles, two Japanese animations, and two Korean actioners. Significantly, three of those took their chances and released mid-year between the virus-induced closures and at times when Hollywood movies were absent.
“Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train” recently became the all-time top-grossing film in Japan. In Hong Kong, its HK$28.6 million ($3.69 million), earned from a November release, made it the third biggest film of 2020.
Korean-made “Ashfall” was a January release that earned $18.6 million ($2.40 million) and fourth place. “Peninsula” was an August release that earned HK$16.5 million ($2.13 million) and fifth place.
The top Hong Kong-made film was comedy actioner “The Grand Grandmaster,” which earned an overall second place with HK$29.5 million ($3.81 million) from a Chinese New Year release in January. Mystery-romance, “Beyond The Dream” was the territory’s second most successful local effort. It earned $15.3 million ($1.97 million) from a July outing to claim seventh place overall. Both titles were distributed by Golden Scene.
The Hong Kong Box Office’s breakdown of the data showed release numbers fell significantly, from 319 in 2019 to just 218 in 2020. Releases of local films dropped from 49 to 34, while overseas titles dropped from 280 to 184.