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Film’s a business

Today comes with even less news (or maybe less interesting news) and less surprises, so try and hang in there.

- Those continuously changing Japanese box office numbers are out, courtesy of Box Office Mojo. This week’s box office is at an exchange rate of 118.384 yen per dollar, so the box office earned less money overall. The big winner is the latest Doraemon movie, which took it a huge 560 million yen. According to Eiga Consultant, that’s 130% of the last Doraemon film’s opening weekend, and 111% of the last Pokemon movie (yes, Pokemon actually still attract audiences). Considering a lot of the ticket sales are from cheaper-than-usual kids tickets, the attendance is pretty amazing. The final take may even be 4 billion yen, which means Doraemon is going to be a viable franchise for a long time to come, and it will still make me feel really young because Doraemon is my childhood idol.

The Genghis Khan movie earned 154 million yen this week, signaling a 22% drop from last week’s 198 million yen take. The rest of last week’s openers all dropped 20-something percent from their opening week, except for Ghost Rider, which dropped nearly 40% from last week, and won’t be repeating America’s surprise performance.

- Sales of Japanese home video have been sliding, as Japanese animation (which takes up the biggest piece of the pie with 24.5% of sales….why am I not surprised by this?) drops by 14.5 %, foreign films (which takes up 20% of sales) drop by some 40% this past year, while Jpanese films performs better with a 5.8% gain and a 9.8% share of total sales. Sales overall has fallen by 10%, although a Japan Video Association Manager has said that they can definitely recover from a 10% drop.

Actually, one interesting portion is that sales of television dramas have risen. Perhaps with a long-term trend, this would encourage television stations to begin to branch out to international market, as the Korean drama has over the last few years.

- Or they can learn from America, who is seeing a decline of theatrical window in the past year. Basically, theaterowners are worrying that the window between theatrical exhibition and home video release is getting smaller and smaller (this year, the average shortened by 10 days), making this an even bigger problem than piracy. Even though films do make a bulk of their money from theatrical exhibition, the home video market is still a very very viable way of making money, and the studios have no idea whom to please these days.

Hong Kong adapted this shortening of theatrical window years ago to combat piracy, only to find the emergence of bittorrent to actually take a huge chunk of money away from home video sales. Of course, the distributors got smart and decided to amp up the technical specs to appeal to home theater fanatics, but it seems like now studios are asserting more pressure to release region-coded DVDs for Hong Kong films in order to protect oversea distribution deals. This doesn’t help the home video market, since a huge amount of these downloaders are actually overseas Chinese who have no idea what region codes are, and just flat out get pissed off when they can’t play the DVDs they buy. So sales are down, more people download, and only the film studio wins because they can squeeze more money out of those rich overseas company.

And does that have anything to do with theatrical window? Not really, I was just digressing.

- And who was the first filmmaker in Hong Kong to push the shortening of theatrical window? That would be Wong Jing, Hong Kong’s answer to cheap, fast comedy entertainment-making. His ability to quickly take whatever is popular in Hong Kong at the moment and milk as much cash out of audiences has allowed him to survive in Hong Kong for over 20 years, and his idea of releasing theatrical releases into the video market as quick as he could (The news of this tactic was first broken when customs seized those early releases, mistaking them for bootlegs) has given him the idea of making shitty comedies with TVB stars (why? Just pay them slightly higher than TVB salary, which is pretty much shit anyway, and they’ll do anything) and throw them into video stores after short theatrical runs.

Lovehkfilm’s Kozo has a review of his latest concoction The Lady Iron Chef, a rip-off of the TVB cooking contest Beautiful Cooking, which they ripped off from Japan’s Ai No Apron by adding crappy musical performance and canned laughter.

- If you read my profile on the right, you’d know that my main interest is the new “Panasian” films and their effect on national cinema. In light of the upcoming Hong Kong entertainment expo, Variety Asia’s Patrick Frater has turned in a report on the new Asian style of film finance. Very very informative if you’re into that kind of stuff like I am.

- And it looks like the expanded scale of the Hong Kong Entertainment Expo this year has attracted the attention of Hollywood Reporter, who chimes in with this report.

- Of course, their competitor Variety also has this report on this year’s Asian Film Awards and its plan to honor veteran actress Josephine Siao Fong Fong and film theorist David Bordwell for their contributions to Asian cinema (although for Ms. Siao, it’s more Hong Kong than Asia).

- Speaking of film festivals, Twitch has a preview of the upcoming San Francisco Asian American film festival, which I probably won’t be going because the films I want to see aren’t at ideal times, and at the ideal times, there aren’t any films I’m interested in. Nevertheless, it looks to be a fairly interesting festival, and I regret not being to able to attend it this year. Then again, there’s always the higher-profile San Francisco Film Festival later this year.

- Variety Asia also has more about the Wong Kar Wai/Stanley Kwan lesbian film collaboration, but they’re not even sure what Wong Kar Wai is doing with it.

- Lastly, Variety also has its first review of Judd Apatow’s latest Knocked Up, and critic Joe Leydon seems to have enjoyed it immensely. And I don’t blame him, it does look hilarious, and I can’t wait for a sweet comedy like this opening amidst the hyped-up and amped-up sequels this summer.

The suitable-for-all-audience trailer is here

The red-band-contains-strong-language-but-far-funnier-trailer is here too.

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