'Transformers' tops HK summer boxoffice

Hollywood takes six out of top 10 slots in July and August

HONG KONG -- "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" was crowned Hong Kong's summer boxoffice king, but the local market also fared well during the same period.

Total boxoffice in July and August dropped 7.8% year-on-year, from HK$281 million (US$36.26 million) in 2008 to HK$259 million in 2009, according to the tally from the Hong Kong Motion Picture Industry Association. However, this is in part because the highest-grossing summer film opened in June.

It was win, place and show to Hollywood films in Hong Kong this summer. Topping the charts is Paramount's "Transformers" sequel, still showing but only on one Imax screen, which took HK$48 million since its opening on June 24. The June debut of that film can explain the missing HK$22 million from the combined gross during the summer months, as it took more than half of its total during its first week (HK$27 million from June 24-30).

Boy wizard Harry Potter lagged slightly behind the robots in the month-long race, as the sixth installment of the Warner Bros. saga, "Half-Blood Prince," finds the summer boxoffice crown barely out of his reach with HK$45.5 million since July 15. In 3-D, Pixar's "Up" overtook early summer animated winner "Ice Age: Rise of the Dinosaur," with "Up" taking HK$32.6 million and "Ice Age 3" HK$32.5 million, but the latter was released almost a month earlier than the former.

The highest-grossing, Hong Kong-produced film this summer belonged to thriller "Overheard," written and directed by "Infernal Affairs" scribe team Alan Mak and Felix Chong, and the debut of Distribution Workshop, which led the pack with HK$15.3 million gross. It placed fifth on the summer top 10 but took less than half of the fourth-place finisher, "Ice Age 3." "Overheard" is closely followed by "Turning Point," the Shaw Brothers comeback made with subsidiary TVB, which opened two weeks after "Overheard" and has grossed HK$14.7 million so far during a two and a half week run.

The numbers seem heartening for local productions. Eleven Hong Kong films or Hong Kong-China co-productions were released during July and August 2009, more than double those of 2008, when only five were shown. The total gross of Hong Kong films this summer adds up to HK$62.4 million, an encouraging 81% increase from last year's HK$34.5 million.

Four local pics made the top 10 this summer: "Overheard," "Turning Point," Edko's Aaron Kwok thriller "Murderer" (HK$11.7 million) and period comedy "On His Majesty's Secret Service" (HK8.8 million) -- while only two made the cut last summer. But the HK$15.3 million take of "Overheard," pales in comparison to last year's local winner, John Woo's epic co-production hit "Red Cliff," which raked in HK$24.3 million.

"The performance of the local films are more evenly balanced this summer," said MPIA CEO Brian Chung. "There isn't a particular mega-budget blockbuster contender as 'Red Cliff' was last year, so a higher number of moderate-budget although solid Hong Kong films could compete in the same slot."
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