'Dark Knight Rises' Tops Hong Kong Summer Box Office

Warner Bros.

The summer take declined 5 percent from last year, but local filmmaker Pang Ho-cheung proved the man of the hour with his summer hit "Vulgaria."

HONG KONG – The Dark Knight Rises ranked at the top of the summer box office in Hong Kong, but its HK$79 million ($10.2 million) gross was no match for the pre-summer league of superheroes blockbuster The Avengers, which grossed HK$96.7 million ($12.4 million) during its four-month release from late April to late August.

According to the Hong Kong Motion Picture Industry Association (MPIA), the third and concluding chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy rose high above the second-place holder of the summer top 10 in Hong Kong, The Amazing Spiderman, which took HK$62 million during the two-month period despite having a three-week head start.

Nevertheless, the increase in releases and diversity in offers only seemed to confuse the audience, which was already distracted by the spectacle of the London Olympics. The total summer box office gross in Hong Kong dropped 5 percent from last year, from HK$357 million in 2011 to HK$339 million in 2012. The only hit among the independently distributed foreign releases was Step Up Revolution, the fourth installment of the teen-minded dance film franchise distributed by Golden Scene, which took HK$17.8 million and a sixth place on the summer top ten.

Blue Sky Studio’s Ice Age franchise for News Corp.'s Fox continued to go strong in the territory, with the series’ fourth installment, Ice Age: Continental Drift taking third place with HK$38.2 million. Dreamworks Animations' Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted came neck to neck in the fourth place, with a HK$31 million take. In contrast, Pixar’s Brave grossed only HK$8.8 million since its August 9 release, dismal for a Pixar animated feature.

But the hottest man at the Hong Kong box office, undeniably, is homegrown director Pang Ho-cheung, whose Vulgaria became Hong Kong's highest-grossing Chinese-language film of the summer. It has raked in HK$26.9 million from its Aug. 9 release to date. 2012 proved a golden year for Pang, whose previous film, Love in the Buff, was crowned the top-grossing film of the first half of the year, taking HK$27.9 million in two months from late April.

However, Pang’s personal success is not indicative of the local film industry. The only other Chinese-language film on the summer top ten was Painted Skin: The Resurrection, which became the highest-grossing film in China of all time with a 700 million yuan ($110 million) box office take, but only grossed HK$9 million in Hong Kong.

Imported films continued to dominate Hong Kong screens, with 38 foreign films shown in the territory during the months of July and August, compared to only eight local films. 

The number of imports also marks a spike from the 24 shown during the summer months last year, reflecting the weaker presence – and understandably lack of confidence of theatre exhibitors - of Hollywood studio outputs such as the Colin Farrell-starring Total Recall remake, and Warner Bros’ Tom Cruise-starrer Rock of Ages - neither of which made the top ten. Summer superhero sequels, such as those from the Spiderman and Batman franchises, were deterrents for distributors of smaller films to put up a fight; but the lack of a, for instance, Harry Potter installment as was the case in 2011, opened up the field for the counter-programming efforts by independent foreign film distributors in Hong Kong, which are stretching the already fiercely competitive independent foreign film distribution market.