BANGKOK – Pee Mak Phra Khanong, a big-screen rom-com take on an oft-told Thai ghost story, is riding high at the Thailand box office, having set a series of domestic records during its first ten days in release.
The film opened on March 28 with $614,000 (21.2 million Thai baht), the second best first-day performance ever by a Thai film — topped only by Ong Bak starring local action hero Tony Jaa, which pulled in $1 million (30 million baht) as a full-country total in 2003. The opening haul is all the more impressive given that G.I. Joe: Retaliation bowed in Thailand on the same day. Bangkok cinemas were so packed during Pee Mak’s first week that many say they added additional late-night screenings.
Ten days into its run, Pee Mak was the second-highest grossing domestic film of all time in Thailand, having earned 261.10 Million Baht, and now ranks fourth in the overall box office leader list, behind The Legend of Suriyothai ($11 million; 320 million baht); Transformers 3 ($10.2 million; 300 million baht); and Avatar ($9.2 million; 271 million baht), respectively.
The film is also the highest-grossing title for Thai studio Gmm Thai Hub (GTH), which has turned out a string of hit comedies and youth orientated rom-coms since its establishment in 2003.
The basis of the film — the “Mae Nak Phra Khanong” ghost story — has been adapted numerous times for Thai TV and cinema, most notably by Nonzee Nimibutr in 1999, with his much-loved dramatic version, Nang Nak. Rebooted this time by regular GTH director Banjong Pisanthanakun (Shutter, 2004; 4bia, 2008; Hello Stranger, 2010), Pee Mak stars regional heartthrob Mario Maurer in the role of Mak, a Thai soldier who goes away to war, returning to find that his wife Nak (Davika Horne) has passed away — and that she’ll soon return to haunt him.
With Pee Mak still comfortably at No. 1 at the Thai box office as of Monday, and the national Thai New Year holiday April 12-17 — during which nearly all schools and offices are closed and cinemas typically packed — the film has a good chance of becoming the all-time highest grossing film at the Thailand box office by unseating The Legend of Suriyothai, which has held the top stop since 2001.