20 January 2019
A Doraemon fan takes a selfie before entering the cinema. Photo: Xinhua
A Doraemon fan takes a selfie before entering the cinema. Photo: Xinhua

Why Hong Kong continues to stand by Doraemon

Birdman, 12 Golden Ducks and Penguins of Madagascar have scorched the Hong Kong box office but the hottest ticket in town is a blue-and-white robot cat.

It helps that Stand By Me: Doraemon is in 3D but it would have done just as well in a garden-variety format, judging by its four-day Lunar New Year holiday run.

The movie hauled HK$12 million (US$1.5 million) from New Year’s eve to the next three days, trumping all local productions including Triumph In The Skies (HK$10.7 million), From Vegas To Macau II (HK$9.9 million) and 12 Golden Ducks (HK$9.2 million).

(For the record, the Amazing Pleasant Goat 7, now in the 10th year as an animated series, recorded just HK$130,069)

Doraemon voice actor Lam Pou-chuen, who died last month, would have been proud. In movies, the lovable Japanese character is now apparently more popular than Garfield or Hello Kitty.

Ironically, Japanese fans did not make the local hero No. 1 at the box office when the movie debuted in August, although it was one of the highest-earning films in the country last year with US$79 million. Its international box office topped US$105 million.

Hong Kong is perhaps the biggest of Doraemon’s 59 markets worldwide.

The movie’s holiday performance was nothing short of sensational given that it was at least six months out of release and was not timed to mark any special occasion — Hello Kitty, for instance, marked its 40th birthday last year.

Why is Doraemon so popular in Hong Kong?

First of all, its fans have grown with it since it made its first television appearance in 1982 on TVB.

And they continue to stand by it.

Most of them are now parents, who want to pass their experience with the wholesome character to their children.

Sure, the same thing can be said of other comic characters, but Doraemon became a Japanese cultural icon shortly after it was born in 1969.

By the time Doraemon was officially appointed “anime ambassador” in 2008, it had sold more than 100 million copies in one of the world’s best-selling mangas.

When it comes to movies, Hong Kong and mainland China are very different markets.

But the two converge on unpredictability — which movies will sell and which ones will not.

In the mainland, this Lunar New Year belonged to Jacky Chan’s Dragon Blade which bagged 125 million yuan on its debut.

One thing I noticed this past year is that most mainland-made films fell flat at the Hong Kong box office.

It’s possible Hong Kong people are tired of too many serious mainland themes, so these films are the least preferred form of entertainment for them.

That’s why they embrace light-hearted, feel-good movies like Stand By Me: Doraemon which they can watch with their children.

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EJ Insight writer

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