22 March 2019
Supporters of the pro-democracy movement flash the three-finger salute from The Hunger Games in Mong Kok. Photo: AFP
Supporters of the pro-democracy movement flash the three-finger salute from The Hunger Games in Mong Kok. Photo: AFP

Can cheap movie tickets win hearts of youth?

The Hong Kong government seems to believe offering more entertainment to youngsters can help shift their attention from the desire for true democracy and encourage them to support the authorities.

But the reality will prove this approach to be simplistic.

The government plans to put additional resources into supporting the city’s declining movie industry, which was once dubbed Hollywood East and dominated the market for Chinese movies around the world.

And it is also looking to subsidise movie tickets to bring youngsters back into the cinemas.

Sources said it hopes tickets priced at HK$45 each will help provide young people with more entertainment in their spare time, so as to reduce their disaffection with the authorities.

Movie tickets in Hong Kong are generally priced in the range of HK$70 to HK$100, depending on the film and the location of the cinema.

The government plans to kick off the subsidy program as early as March, during the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

While it insists the initiative has nothing to do with “brainwashing” youngsters or ideology, the government fails to understand how today’s youth interact with their peers and family members.

They now search for high-quality productions on the internet and watch them at home together on a television monitor via a set-top box or share them on different social platforms, instead of going to the cinema and having to buy expensive tickets to watch poorly produced movies.

The fact is that Hong Kong’s youngsters need a free space to demonstrate their talents to the public; they need a channel on which to be seen — not money.

Subsidising movie tickets misses the mark; it fails to understand the factors behind the decline of the city’s creative industries.

The government has its eyes only on propping up the traditional entertainment tycoons rather than providing opportunities for youngsters to achieve their dreams.

For example, a small group called Mocking Jer has become quite popular in Hong Kong after the end of the Occupy campaign.

In a parody of one of pop singer Andy Lau’s songs, the group gave voice to the support among youth for the campaign. It even hosted a successful live show in Tsim Sha Tsui with an audience of more than a thousand people.

Such local talents should be a key pillar for Hong Kong’s movie industry, but the government seems bent on ignoring them.

Most local production houses are busy seeking partners in the mainland in an attempt to tap the high growth potential of Asia’s largest movie market, resulting in a decline in the city’s homegrown creative industry.

The government created this situation when it listed Hong Kong movie and television productions among the sectors covered by the closer economic partnership arrangement between Hong Kong and the mainland.

CEPA allows Hong Kong productions to secure local status in the mainland and to be aired together with domestic productions as long as they are produced in partnership with Chinese production houses.

The policy quickly drove investors in Hong Kong’s entertainment industry north to reap profits from a market of 1.3 billion people, leaving the Hong Kong market of seven million people to be dominated by foreign and mainland productions.

Even if the Hong Kong government introduces measures to stimulate the local production of movies and helps to showcase and promote Hong Kong films in the mainland, Taiwan and overseas markets, the fact remains that the city’s new generation has a wide choice of high-quality productions available to it.

The reason young people are not keen to watch Hong Kong-mainland co-productions is very simple: they don’t want to be affected by the movies’ mainland Chinese elements, which they find do not match their lifestyle.

What the government should do is encourage the diversification of creative content to appeal to people in Hong Kong and throughout the world — not just mainlanders.

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The group Mocking Jer performs a song on a street in Mong Kok mocking mainlanders who shop in Hong Kong. Photo: Facebook

EJ Insight writer

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