Timeline: Hong Kong cinema


April 26, 1897 First exhibition of the "Cinemagraph" in Hong Kong's City Hall, brought by French professor Maurice Charvet, who showed short films including the Czar's entry into Paris and the march of a French cavalry regiment

1909/1912 Arguably the first films were made in Hong Kong, financed by American producer Benjamin Brodsky: "Stealing a Roast Duck," which starred Lai Pak-hoi, "Right a Wrong With Earthenware Dish," "Unfortunate Child" and "The Empress Dowager." Primary records of the films have not yet been found

"Zhuangzi Tests His Wife"

1913 "Zhuangzi Tests His Wife" is credited as the first Hong Kong narrative film; it was financed by Brodsky's Chinese American Film company

1922 Brothers Lai Hoi-shan, Lai Man-wai, Lai Pak-hoi found the first Chinese-owned production company, China Sun Co., but the studio is built in Guangzhou in 1924 after the British colonial government rejects their plans to build in Hong Kong

1924 The first Hong Kong film financed, produced and acted by Hong Kong Chinese, "The Calamity of Money," is released

1925 All film production companies close during the 16-month-long Guangzhou-Hong Kong Strike that began in June. Filmmaking in Hong Kong stops for three years

Lai brothers
1933 The first Cantonese "talkie," "Conscience," is made by Lai Pak-hoi's China Sound and Silent Movies Co. Synchronized dialogue only appeared in parts of the film; the first Hong Kong-made Cantonese feature with fully synchronized dialogue, "The Idiot's Wedding Night," is released in September

1937 Production of films in Cantonese is banned by the Republican government in China in July. Cantonese filmmakers from China begin to move and set up bases in British colonial Hong Kong; Cantonese cinema blooms as a result. The fall of Shanghai during the Sino-Japanese war in August also brings Shanghainese filmmakers to Hong Kong

1938 Six Hong Kong studios come together and mobilize the whole filmmaking community in South China to make "At This Crucial Juncture," a resistance film to raise funds for war relief

1941-45 Filmmaking ceased during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong

1946 The first film made in Hong Kong after the war, "Flames of Lust," in Cantonese, premieres in early December

1947-50 With the influx of Mandarin filmmakers to the territory, studios Yung Hwa Motion Pictures Industries, Great Wall Movie Enterprise and Great China Film Co. are established in Hong Kong, quickly developing a thriving Mandarin film industry. Notable Mandarin films of this time include "Sorrows of the Forbidden City" (1948), directed by Zhu Shilin

1949 Debut of the first film of the "Wong Fei-Hung" Cantonese kung fu series, which spanned more than 60 installments in the next decade, the longest movie series in film history

1952 China closes its market to Hong Kong-made films. The Hong Kong government deports 10 members of left-wing Mandarin filmmaking industry to China

1955 Malaysian tycoon Loke Wan-tho, who owns the Cathay Keris Studios and Cathay cinema circuit in Malaysia (later renamed Cathay Organization), brings over Hong Kong's Yung Hwa and sets up Motion Picture & General Investment (MP & GI) the following year, a studio based on the Hollywood model, which becomes one of the two biggest producers of Mandarin hits, including director Evan Yang's "Mambo Girl" (1957) and the two-parter "Star, Moon, and Sun" (1961)

1957 The Cantonese opera adaptation craze begins, peaking with those starring popular duo Yam Kim-fai and Pak Suet-sin, including "Princess Cheung Ping" and "The Legend of Purple Hairpin" (both from 1959)

1958 Shaw Brothers (HK) is founded after its president Run Run Shaw takes over Shaw and Sons' production operation in Hong Kong the previous year; construction of Shaw Movietown in Clearwater Bay gets under way

1962 Now ruling the Mandarin film market with MP & GI, Shaw Brothers garner international accolades with "Yang Kwei-fei" by director Li Hanxiang, which wins a technical award at the 15th Festival de Cannes for its achievement in color cinematography

1964 MP & GI chairman Loke Wan-tho dies in a plane crash, which leads to a decline of the studio's Hong Kong business and subsequent takeover by its Malaysia parent company, the Cathay Organization. In Cantonese cinema, the action choreography and special effects of the martial arts series "The Young Swordsman Lung Kim-fei/Buddha's Palm" (seven parts in total) wows audiences

1966 Shaw Brothers' Mandarin "Come Drink With Me" by King Hu reinvents the kung fu genre and ushers in the "new wuxia" era of Hong Kong cinema. That same year, teen superstars Connie Chan and Josephine Siao's Cantonese "Colourful Youth," the boxoffice champion of the year, ushers in the mega-successful teen musical trend

1967 Shaw Brothers' Mandarin "One-Armed Swordsman," directed by Chang Cheh, becomes the first film to break the HK$1 million mark

1970 Raymond Chow and Leonard Ho, former Shaw Brothers executives, establish Golden Harvest (HK), which quickly supplants Shaw Brothers and becomes the leading Hong Kong studio during the next two decades

1971 Golden Harvest's Cantonese "The Big Boss" propels Bruce Lee to international superstardom; the film sets a new boxoffice record in Hong Kong with a HK$3.2 million take; Lee's next films for Golden Harvest, "Fist of Fury" and "The Way of the Dragon" (1972, 1973, both in Mandarin), gross HK$4.4 million and HK$5.3 million, respectively

1973 Shaw Brothers' Cantonese comedy "The House of 72 Tenants," directed by Chor Yuen, grosses HK$5.6 million and revives Cantonese cinema

1974 Cantonese cinema's increasing dominance is demonstrated by the successes of Golden Harvest's comedies "Games Gamblers Play" and "The Private Eyes" (1976), which take in a record-breaking HK$6.3 million and HK$8.5 million, respectively

Jackie Chan
1978 Martial artist Jackie Chan becomes a breakout star with two hit period kung fu comedies, "Snake in the Eagle's Shadow" and "Drunken Master" in one year, both by A Ocean Films and directed by Yuen Woo-ping

1979 Young directors Yim Ho's "The Extras," Tsui Hark's "The Butterfly Murders," Ann Hui's "The Secret," Alex Cheung's "Cops and Robbers" and Peter Yung's "The System" introduce a new cinema that combines realism, social commentary and genre film conventions. These and other filmmakers who made the leap from television to film, including Patrick Tam and Allen Fong, become collectively known as the Hong Kong New Wave

1980 Actors Raymond Wong, Karl Maka and Dean Shek establish the Cinema City Co., which becomes a breeding ground of filmmakers and talent, including Tsui Hark, Nansun Shi, Eric Tsang, John Woo, Sylvia Chang and Johnnie To, and a massive hit factory, producing such blockbusters as the record-smashing "Aces Go Places" series (1982-89) and Woo's "A Better Tomorrow" series (1986-89), the latter of which earns HK$35 million, launches the gangster film trend and turns Chow Yun-fat from television actor into Asian superstar

1984 Entrepreneur Dickson Poon and kung fu star Sammo Hung found D&B Films. D&B introduces ballerina-turned-martial arts heroine Michelle Yeoh and hits like director Mabel Cheung's "An Autumn's Tale" (1986) and the comedy "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World" series (1987-89), which turn the 1980s into a three-way rivalry between Golden Harvest, Cinema City and D&B

1990-93 Comedian Stephen Chow becomes the most bankable star in Hong Kong with nearly two-dozen hits and four top-grossing films in four consecutive years -- "All For the Winner" (1990), "Fight Back to School" (1991), "Justice, My Foot!" (1992) and "Flirting Scholar" (1993), each taking more than HK$40 million

1995-96 Jackie Chan reclaims the title of king of the boxoffice with "First Strike" (1995) and "Rumble in the Bronx" (1996), earning HK$58 million and HK$57 million, respectively. The latter also was a hit when released in the U.S., grossing $32 million, and paving the way for Chan's Hollywood career.

1997 Two months before the handover of Hong Kong to China, director Wong Kar-wai, whose "Days of Being Wild" (1990), "Chungking Express" and "Ashes of Time" (both 1994) made him an international critics darling, becomes the first Chinese to win best director for "Happy Together" at the 50th Festival de Cannes.

2002-03 Media Asia's "Infernal Affairs" trilogy takes Asia by storm; the first film is later adapted into Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning "The Departed" (2006)

2004 Implementation of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement between China and Hong Kong; Hong Kong and China co-productions are no longer subject to import quotas; co-production boomed as a result. That same year, Stephen Chow's "Kung Fu Hustle" sets new Hong Kong boxoffice record with its HK$61 million take

2008 First part of John Woo's epic "Red Cliff," a co-production between China and Hong Kong, becomes the first film to break the 300 million yuan mark at the Chinese boxoffice