Date
23 October 2017
Hongkongers tired of traditional Monkey King movies (right) flocked to Deadpool (left). Meanwhile, outdated Hong Kong movie ideas are gaining new currency in the mainland. Photos: YouTube
Hongkongers tired of traditional Monkey King movies (right) flocked to Deadpool (left). Meanwhile, outdated Hong Kong movie ideas are gaining new currency in the mainland. Photos: YouTube

Guess how much a monkey is worth to Chinese movie makers

Monkey means money for movie makers in Hong Kong and China.

China’s box office topped 3 billion yuan (US$461.1 million) in the first week of the Year of the Monkey, up 67 percent from the previous year, according to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid accounted for half of the box office, which set an opening-day Lunar New Year record with more than 100 million yuan, a fiery start to a 14-day run.

Chow, an icon of Cantonese comedy and a hit in mainland China after his two movies rewritten from Journey of the West (西遊記): A Chinese Odyssey Part One — Pandora’s Box (月光寶盒) and A Chinese Odyssey Part Two: Cinderella (仙履奇緣), beat all movies featuring the monkey theme.

As many as nine movies have been made in the past two years on Sun Wukong (孫悟空), or the Monkey King, in Journey to the West, including Monkey King 2 (西遊記之孫悟空三打白骨精), which cashed about 650 million yuan, and mainland animated movie Mr. Nian (年獸大作戰), which hauled in 31 million yuan.

That is why it is believed that the Year of the Monkey is also a year of movies. The monkey is the only one of the 12 Zodiac signs that resemble a human.

On the first day of the new year, the national box office topped 660 million yuan with 19 million moviegoers, both record high.

That confirms a trend that has made movies the most important family entertainment over the Lunar New year holiday.

Movie receipts have risen to 3 billion yuan this new year from 1.4 billion in 2014 and 1.8 billion in 2015.

Controversial Hong Kong director Wong Jing’s From Vegas to Macau III (澳門風雲III), starring Chow Yun-fat and Andy Lau, bagged 680 million yuan in the first week despite some mainland critics calling it a “shit movie”.

In Hong Kong, the movie, once boycotted by netizens for Wong’s pro-Beijing stance, ranked No. 2 at the box office with HK$12 million, slightly behind The Mermaid’s HK$13 million between Feb. 7 and Feb. 10.

Wong is predicting that China’s box office will be 25 times bigger than Hong Kong’s domestic market.

The trend of more Hong Kong directors, including Stephen Chow, increasingly playing to mainland audiences explains the lackluster performance of the domestic market.

Many people, myself included, found it best to watch replays of Stephen Chow classics and Wong Jing’s iconic gambling movies because these productions represent the best period in Hong Kong movies.

Funny enough, Hong Kong ticket sales were overshadowed by those of a foreign film, Deadpool, which had run up HK$24 million by Feb. 13 despite its inauspicious title. 

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BK/JP/RA

EJ Insight writer

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