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HONG KONG – Predictably, Transformers: Dark of the Moon was crowned box office king of 2011 in Hong Kong, but more surprising was the record-breaking success of You Are the Apple of My Eye, the little Taiwan romcom that could, which took over the title of the highest grossing Chinese-language film ever in the territory.
The third installment of the Michael Bay toy-inspired franchise accumulated HK$84.7 million ($10.9 million) in a three-month run during the summer of 2011, almost doubling the HK$48 million gross of its 2009 predecessor, Revenge of the Fallen, according to the Hong Kong Motion Pictures Industry Association. The last chapter of the Harry Potter saga, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, took HK$76.8 million for second place.
But the breakout hit of the year was the second-runner up of the top 10, the Fox International-distributed romcom You Are the Apple of My Eye from Taiwan, which has raked in over HK$61.29 million since its wide release in mid-Oct, and is remains in theatres. The directorial debut from Taiwan author Giddens Ko took Hong Kong by storm amidst gales of media hype, warranting see-for-yourself buzz and repeat viewings for fans and detractors to join in the conversation. It pushed the gross to break on the last day of 2011 the seven-year-old record of the highest grossing Chinese-language film, held by local favorite son Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle, which made HK$61.28 million in 2004.
Two Hong Kong-produced films made their appearance in the year-end top 10. The gimmicky 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy was the number one film at the Hong Kong box office for the first half of the year with HK$41 million until Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides overtook it with a HK$45 million tally, ending up in fifth and fourth place, respectively; while the 2011 Chinese New Year hit I Love Hong Kong from Shaw Brothers/TVB grossed HK$26.7 million for eighth place. Tellingly, none of the three Chinese-language entries in the top 10 were Hong Kong-China co-productions, with 56 Hong Kong films or co-productions were shown during the year.
Seven of the top 10 are Hollywood imports: Kung Fu Panda 2 with HK$39.5 million; Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol has taken in HK$30.8 million in two weeks since its mid-Dec. opening; X-Men: First Class made HK$25.9 million; and the Rowan Atkinson-starrer Johnny English Reborn rounded up the top 10 with HK$25 million.
Despite having 10 fewer films released during the year – from 286 in 2010 to 276 in 2011 – the total box office gross in the territory rose from HK$1.339 billion in 2010 to HK$1.379 billion in 2011. Independent foreign film distributors are less enthusiastic as well: with a steady stream of Hollywood films released, non-local films dropped from 232 in 2010 to 220 in 2011.
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