Gangster Pay Day, a Hong Kong movie starring veteran actor Anthony Wong Chau-sang, grossed a meager 300,000 yuan (US$49,000) on its first day of showing in mainland China last Friday.
It had close to 3,000 screenings on that day, putting the gross take for each session at only 100 yuan. This is the worst first-day performance for a Hong Kong or Taiwan-produced movie shown on the mainland.
By comparison, the US action-comedy film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) raked in 18.1 million yuan last Friday, bringing its total take on the mainland to 250 million yuan.
What’s happened? Is there something intrinsically weak about the Hong Kong production that caused it to bomb on the mainland?
But the film drew praises from critics and audiences elsewhere. In fact, it was selected as the closing offering at the Busan International Film Festival last month.
So why are the mainlanders giving Gangster Pay Day the cold shoulder? The issue, many believe, has something to do with the movie’s main performer, Anthony Wong.
As people on both sides of the border know, Wong is a vocal supporter of the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
And many Chinese moviegoers have noted their disapproval of Wong’s political stance on social media, saying that they wouldn’t watch his films because he supported the civil disobedience movement.
A movie theater in Beijing even boycotted Wong’s film because of his support for the Occupy Central campaign.
In fact, Wong has encountered so many snags even before the film was shown on the mainland.
Being the film’s lead actor, Wong naturally had to have his face at the center of the movie poster.
But after he delivered his pro-Occupy speech, the film distributor made a last-minute change to the poster layout, taking out Wong’s image and replacing it with that of Charlene Choi, the lead actress.
Obviously, even that didn’t help.
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