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Archive for November, 2008

The Golden Rock - November 29th, 2008 Edition

- Mr. Texas of Eiga Consultant looks at the opening of two films from last week. First, he looks at the war crimes drama I’d Rather Be a Shellfish, starring Smap’s Masahiro Nakai and Yukie Nakama. Over the three-day holiday weekend, it made 407 million yen from 330 screens. That’s 105% of the three-day opening for The Glorious Team Batista, which went on to make 1.6 billion yen. More interesting is the audience breakdown, which was 81% female. Also, audience in their 20s made up a surprisingly 32.6% of the total audience (surprising because war dramas or post-war dramas tend to skew older). That’s the power of Smap.

Mr. Texas also looks at the opening of Tropic Thunder in Japan. From a modest 161 screens, the Hollywood comedy made 59.9 million yen over the first two days. Mr. Texas chose not to compare it to Night at the Museum because it was released much wider. Instead, this opening is 133% of Nacho Libre’s opening, which ended making 150 million yen. Hollywood-centric comedies like this usually don’t work so well outside of English-speaking countries, so this result comes as no surprise.

- It’s review time! From Japan Times’ Mark Schilling is the review for the big-budget diaster film 252 ~ Seizonsha Ari, about a super typhoon that hits Tokyo.  From the Daily Yomiuri’s Ikuko Kitagawa is the review for the school drama Aoi Tori, starring Hiroshi Abe as a stuttering teacher that makes his new class face their past deeds head-on.

- Despite the global economic slowdown affecting pretty much everyone, Bollywood industry professionals insist that a film’s success “has nothing to do with stock markets or banks.”

- This week’s Televiews column on the Daily Yomiuri looks at how TV ratings data are compiled in Japan and what’s leading each program category in ratings.

- Twitch looks at the new Korean film A Frozen Flower by Once Upon a Time in High School and A Dirty Carnival director Yu Ha, which is a risky, high-budget, gay-themed period drama that sold fairly well at the American Film Market earlier this month.

- Also on the Korean front, the laughable fantasy blockbuster D-War is making its debut in Japan this weekend, and the Daily Yomiuri has an interesting article about shooting a Korean film about dragons on the streets of Los Angeles.

- Fans of stage dramas in Japan can look forward to the Japanese stage adaptation of the Hollywood film Phone Booth, starring Keiichiro Koyama of boy band NEWS.

- Finally, the Daily Yomiuri looks at the short film Dare Mo Shinanai, a 34-minute work about high school girls who play survival games with BB guns that also marks the directorial debut of painter Mr.. The trailer can be found here, and it’s now playing at a Tokyo theater in Shimokitazawa that specializes in playing short films.

The Golden Rock - November 28th, 2008 Edition

- Lovehkfilm just updated with some new reviews: From Boss Kozo are reviews for Lawrence Lau’s Ballistic, the Taiwanese film noir Parking (which was my 4th favorite film at this year’s Asian Film Festival), and the Korean film Baby and I. From yours truly is the review for the artsy Korean-Mongolian-French production Desert Dream, which is my 100th review for LHKF. Honestly, I wasn’t keeping count.

- Five films opened in Hong Kong yesterday - Two major releases, one modest release, and two limited releases - and four of them made it on the top 10 on opening day. Dante Lam’s Beast Stalker opened on top, with HK$483,000 from 34 screens. It’ll likely pass the HK$2 million mark at the end of the weekend, but we won’t know whether it’ll fall as fast as Champions (which had similar opening numbers) until next weekend. Last week’s top film Cape No. 7 will be at second place, unless the teen audience come out in droves for Patrick Kong’s Nobody’s Perfect.  The Gold Label-produced comedy opened at third place with just HK$209,000 from 24 screens. At least it’ll do better than Forgive and Forget.

Lawrence Lau’s Taiwan politics-themed Ballistic opened on 18 screens, but it only made HK$49,000, which makes the HK$200,000 mark even a hard one to reach by the end of the weekend. The limited releases didn’t do so well, either: The Taiwanese youth film Miao Miao made only HK$31,000 from 8 screens, and Choke didn’t even hit the top 10. More when the numbers are out on Monday.

- Variety has a report on how the ongoing terrorist attacks in Mumbai is affecting the Indian entertainment industry. Mumbai is considered the center of the Bollywood film industry, with many of film companies’ offices situated there.

- The awards season has begun in Japan, as the yearly Hochi Awards is the first one to announce its 2008 winners. Beating out finalists Tokyo Sonata, Climber’s High, and Still Walking is the comedy-drama Departures. However, the Best Director award went to All Around Us‘ Ryusuke Hashiguchi instead.

The Best Actor Award went to Shinichi Tstsumi for his performances in both Climber’s High and Suspect X, while the Best Actress Award went to Kyoko Koizumi for her performances in Gu-Gu Datte Neko de Aru and Tokyo Sonata. The Best Supporting Actor Award went to Masato Sakai (a hit-and-miss actor for me) for Climber’s High and After School, while Kirin Kiki took the Best Supporing Actress Award for Still Walking.

Ayane Nagabuchi took home the Best New Actor Award for Sanpongi Nougyo Kokou Bajutsu Bu, and The Dark Knight won Best Foreign Film.

The complete list in Japan is here.

- If you know Japanese (or know the film well enough to not need subtitles), a thoroughly digitally-restored version of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon will be showing in a Tokyo theater for the next two weeks starting tomorrow.

- Despite production companies around Asia cutting back due to the global financial crisis, the outlook for Asian media in 2009 is still rather positive.

That’s it for today. More over the weekend. Probably.

The Golden Rock - November 26th, 2008 Edition

I reported the Hong Kong weekend box office on Monday. Now it’s time to look at the rest of Asia:

-In Japan, John Woo’s Red Cliff Part 1 ruled the box office for 4th weekend in a row during the holiday weekend. It lost only 10% of its audience, and has now made about 3.1 billion yen. It’s on track to become the highest-grossing non-Japanese Asian film in Japan ever. As Avex reportedly invested US$35 million of the two films’ total US$80 million budget, Avex should be making their money back plus some change if the second film does just as well next Spring.

Meanwhile, the only new Japanese release on the top 10 is the oddly-titled post World War II war crimes trial drama I’d Rather Be a Shellfish. With a fairly large amount of 330 screens, it opened at second place, and has the highest per-screen average in the top 10. The other three English-language openers - Tropic Thunder, Blindness, and 1408 - all opened on a modest amount of screens, and could score only modest openings.

The biggest drop in the top 10 goes to the gimmicky comedy Handsome Suits. It lost only 29.1% from the previous weekend, and has made 668 million yen after 4 weeks. The second smallest drop (next to Red Cliff) is the TV drama film adaptation Suspect X. It managed to lose only 15.4% in business for its 8th weekend. It has now made 4.5 billion yen, and may have a shot at 5 billion when it’s all over.

-  In China, Quantum of Solace barely held on to its top spot for the third weekend in a row, and has now made almost 133 million RMB (200 million RMB is the super hit line that Red Cliff, Warlords, and Painted Skin have crossed). Right behind it is the Chinese romance Desire of the Heart. Variety has a report of how great the opening is.

Dante Lam’s Beast Stalker had a respectable 6.2 million RMB opening at 4th place, behind Hellboy II (which I’m surprised managed to open in China despite its supernatural elements). Depending on how it does in Hong Kong, the two regions’ gross combined may help EEG break even.

There’s not much else to say, since what was provided wasn’t even a completed top 10 list.

- In Taiwanese box office, the largest drop went to Quantum of Solace as well, which also held on to its top spot for the third weekend in a row. Local film Blue Brave is doing fairly well, still in second place despite losing 30% in audience. It has now made over 15 million New Taiwan Dollars, which may be chump change when compared to Cape No. 7, but it’s a fairly good gross for a local film. Just look at Miao Miao, which lost 38.4% in business and has only made 2.8 million New Taiwan Dollars so far.

But like the China data, there’s no screen count, so I have no idea how more limited release such as The Good, the Bad, and the Weird did with their low grosses.

- In a rare sight for 2008, two Korean films are on the top of the Korean box office. Meanwhile, both Connected and Blindness opened weakly in their first weekend.

More over at Korea Pop Wars

- On the Japanese Oricon Charts, UVERworld now has their first #1 single, while Perfume debuts far behind and Girl Next Door’s sales continue to slide. On the album charts, NEWS’ album debuts on top, with Guns N’ Roses’ controversial Chinese Democracy managed a 3rd place opening.

More on Tokyograph.

-  It’s trailers time! Nippon Cinema has the first official trailer for the second installment of the 20th Century Boys trilogy. This one is different from the one at the end of the short film, as it is longer and has more footage. It’ll be released in Japan just two months from now, with the third film aiming for a Fall 2009 release. Twitch reports that the Japanese website for the omnibus New York I Love You has opened with a short teaser. The website only reports that the film will open there some time in 2009. By the way, the website is only fully viewable with Internet Explorer.

- China’s Xinhua Media has announced a new slate of five US-China co-production. One is another martial arts action flick from Forbidden Kingdom writer John Fusco, and another one is a new take on the classic Hua Mulan tale.

- The Hollywood Reporter looks at how Thai TV networks - the four biggest ones owned by the Thai army - are looking at the latest anti-government protests, which led to the shutdown of Thailand’s biggest airport.

- Under “Japanese stars going international for Japanese cinema” news today, “it” actors Kenichi Matsuyama and Maki Horikita are starring in a Japanese-language film directed by American director Hans Canosa. I was greatly impressed by Canosa’s Conversations With Other Women, so I’m looking forward to what he does in a totally foreign environment with such high-profile actors.

Meanwhile, Yuji Oda has signed on to star in Fuji Television’s 50th annivarsary film Amalfi: Megumi no 50 Byou. About a diplomat abroad investigating an abduction, it’ll be the first Japanese film completely shot in Italy.

- Reported earlier in the Hong Kong press and now showing up on Twitch, Raymond Wong has confirmed that Wilson Yip’s DONNNNIIIIIEEEE Yen starrer Ip Man will be getting a sequel. It will cover the titular character’s move to Hong Kong, after he seemingly kicks a lot of Japanese asses in the first film, which won’t even be opening until mid-December. I ought to be excited about this, but I would rather see how Wong Kar Wai pulls off the story instead of seeing another DOOOONNNIIIEEE-centric martial arts fest.

- The global economic crisis has claimed another victim in the film world, as the Jakarta Film Festival in Indonesia has been forced to cut its 9-day schedule to just 5 days, and the festival will only be able to show 10 of the 84 local films produced this year.

- After it was confirmed that Steven Spielberg is working on a Hollywood remake of Oldboy with Will Smith looking to star, the rumors traveling now suggest that the Hollywood remake will be based on the original comic instead of Park Chan-wook’s adaptation, which apparently deviated plenty from the source material.

The Golden Rock - November 24th, 2008 Edition

Long time no see. It’s been a very busy month, so please excuse the extended breaks.

-  In the same situation as Taiwan, Cape No. 7 entered the Hong Kong box office with a good, but not spectacular start. The now-historic Taiwanese comedy-romance-drama opened on 23 screens and made HK$586,380 for a 4-day weekend total of HK$2 million. However, unlike its run in Taiwan, the opening in Hong Kong was preceded by unavoidable buzz, which makes this opening a little underwhelming. Depending on word-of-mouth, normal box office patterns suggest that this will end up making around HK$5 million, which makes this one of the better-grossing Taiwanese movies in recent years (excluding Lust, Caution, of course). Nevertheless, for a movie that beat every movie except Titanic in its native country, underwhelming is the buzz word here.

At least it did better than Disney’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua. From 32 screens, the family-friendly doggie film  made HK$1.36 million over the 4-day weekend, which means it’ll surely not repeat the success of High School Musical 3 last month. The Richard Gere-led romantic drama Nights in Rodanthe opened on 20 screens, but made only HK$400,000 over the 4-day weekend.

As for the holdovers, Quantum of Solace is still in 2nd place in its 3rd weekend, now with a 18-day total of HK$17.12 million after making another HK$507,000 from 41 screens on Sunday. Champions lost about half its audience in its second weekend, now with HK$4.42 million after 11 days. The sad part is that it’s actually quite close to the Mainland Chinese gross after two weeks, which surely makes this a not-very-successful film for Tsui Siu Ming, his Sundream Pictures, and Dicky Cheung, who still has a few more films (including his directorial debut) under his contract.

The Coens’ Burn After Reading lost two screens in its second weekend, but saw a much lower drop in its second weekend. From 18 screens, it still managed to make HK$184,000 for a 11-day total of HK$2.07 million. Last week’s limited release Bella also hung on to its audiences, still making HK$90,000 from 8 screens on Sunday for a 11-day total of HK$1.04 million. Detroit Metal City passed the HK$10 million mark over the weekend, and has now made HK$10.18 million after 25 days, marking this another hit for Kenichi Matsuyama in Hong Kong.

Patrick Kong’s Nobody’s Perfect made a total of HK$180,000 from 30 screens over 5-6 sneak preview shows over the weekend. It’ll open against plenty of newcomers over the weekend, so we’ll see whether the intended teen girl audiences will show up this weekend.

- In Hong Kong, despite the complaints about falling grosses and dying Cantonese film industries, cinemas actually saw a higher total gross than last year. Of course, this is mostly due to the major success of several Hollywood films such as The Dark Knight and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

- It was a public holiday today in Japan, so no Japan numbers until over the next few days. However, in TV drama news, the Summer 2008 ratings winner Code Blue will get a special one-off episode in January. Can someone say film adaptation soon?

- Speaking of Patrick Kong, his new film Love Connected has just started filming, and Gold Label has already premiered a new trailer. However, there’s no actual footage from the film; it’s only a somewhat funny parody of the Connected trailer. Love Connected comes out next Valentine’s Day.

- The Good, the Bad, and the Weird was the big winner at Korea’s Blue Dragon Awards, even though it only won one of the major awards (Kim Jee-woon for Best Director). Instead, the handball film Forever the Moment picked up Best Picture, while Son Ye-jin picked up a surprise win for My Wife Got Married. The Chaser, which swept the competing Grand Bell Awards earlier in the year, only won a much-deserved Best Actor award for Kim Yoon-suk.

- Giving credit where it’s due, it was first reported on Kaiju Shakedown. Now Screen Daily has confirmed that Johnny Hallyday - not Alain Delon - will be starring in Johnnie To’s latest, about a French gangster-turned-chef coming to Hong Kong to avenge his daughter. Will this be a new Milkyway masterpiece, or another Fulltime Killer-like attempt at international filmmaking?

- Also from Kaiju Shakedown today is the news of legendary actress Josephine Siao coming back to Hong Kong cinema with a new role after finding a script that she loves enough to bring her out of retirement.

- Chinese television dramas was such a lucrative business that every other production company started making them. However, the global financial crisis and a growing backlog in the stations’ schedules has caused things to slow down, even though the major players are still doing their thang.

-  Under “Japanese music” news today, Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli is releasing a brand-new compilation of their most well-known theme songs if any Ghibli fan hasn’t collected them all yet.

Mr. Children, who have been been active since 1989 and has rejected the invitation to Japan’s year-end musical extravaganza Kohaku Uta Gassen every year, has finally agreed to appear for the first time ever. Now NHK needs to get Hikaru Utada - another chronic rejection musician - to finally appear as well.

- Next month, American theaters will see Waiting for Beijing, the directorial debut of Chinese entrepeneur Alan Zhang, who worked 20 years to break into the world of cinema. However, his film was unable to get any deals at the recent American Film Market, even though he plans to make four more films in 2009.

The Golden Rock - November 14th, 2008 Edition

Sorry for the extended break. Here’s a weekend edition to tie you over.

- 7 movies were released yesterday in Hong Kong for a very crowded box office charts - two wide releases (over 20 screens), and five limited releases. The best performer is Tsui Siu-Ming’s “everyone-stunning” martial arts epic Champions, which ironically did not get first place. Instead, it made a somewhat surprising HK$425,000 from 36 screens (surprising because everyone I talked to was wondering why I even bothered), and is looking to top HK$2 million over the weekend, behind Quantum of Solace.

Even more surprising is the 3D horror film Scar, which opened only on eight screens, but made HK$393,000 on opening day. Worth noting is that ticket prices are almost doubled because of the 3D format, but the opening remains impressive for a limited release.

The Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading, which got just about no promotion before its opening, opened on 20 screens with HK$156,000. The American indie film Bella opened on 8 screens and made an OK HK$70,000. It’ll likely get a boost from the adult audience over the weekend. On the other hand, no boost can help the dance film Make it Happen, which made just HK$27,800 from 17 screens. The distributor should’ve probably gotten a clue when it got sent straight to DVD in America. Lastly, Death Defying Acts opened on 4 screens and made HK$25,000.

Takashi Miike’s Crows Zero quietly opened on one screen, and naturally did not make it to the top 10. More on Monday when the numbers are out.

- Wong Jing was all over Hong Kong’s newspapers today. China’s Affluence Pictures, which Wong owns 10% of and was previously called the Wong Jing Film Workshop, lost a lawsuit over My Kung Fu Sweetheart because the company released the film’s VCD in China only seven days after the theatrical release, as opposed to the 15 stated in their contract with the investors.

- It’s trailers time! First up is Sion Sono’s seemingly whacked out “pure love” epic Love Exposure. I’m not just calling it whacked because of what’s in the trailer, but also because the movie runs a crazy 237 minutes. It’s even a selling point in the trailer!

Next is the first trailer for John Woo’s Red Cliff Part II, which I hope will be two and a half hours of money shots after Part I nicely set up the stakes (though the film itself is somewhat underwhelming). The release date is now set on January 15th, 2009 in Hong Kong, which means it’ll go up against Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea and Vincent Kuk’s All’s Well That Ends Well 2009. It’s going to be an interesting Lunar New Year.

Lastly, Youtube has the full trailer for Ryoichi Kimizuka’s Nobody to Watch Over Me, which won the Best Screenplay Award at the Montreal World Film Festival. This movie is also worth noting because Kimizuka is the man who penned the Bayside Shakedown TV drama, its two ultra-hit films, and the one underwhelming spin-off.

- After several high-profile PR blunders, the Chinese Ministry of Culture announces that it will punish artists who lip-sync to replace singing at public events. One of these high-profile blunders was the use of a cuter young girl at the Olympic opening ceremony when an unnamed senior government official deemed the original singer “too ugly”.

- Meanwhile, a different Chinese government department, the State Authority of Radio, Film, and Television, took Hong Kong’s Alan Mak/Felix Chong’s Lady Cop and Papa Crook and cut over 10 minutes out of it after a certain section of the film feature gangsters getting out of Mainland China unharmed and unarrested. Because you know, there are no gangsters in China. The oft-delayed film will now open in Hong Kong on January 1st, on the same day as Chen Kaige’s Forever Enthralled. No word which version of the film will be shown in Hong Kong.

- In Thailand, audiences will be able to celebrate Christmas with Tony Jaa, as the troubled Ong Bak 2 is almost completed and set to be released in Thailand on December 5th. After Japanese and American distributors pulled their distribution deals in light of the production troubles, it’s now time for producers to go on heavy-duty damage control.

Golden Rock Podcast - A Guide to Pitching at Film Markets with Kenneth Bi

 tpgmeetings.JPG
A picture of meetings going on at TPG. See more at Kenneth’s blog. Used with permission.

This semester, I got to study under writer/director Kenneth Bi again. Recently, he took a week off to go to Tokyo for the Tokyo Project Gathering, where filmmakers bring their latest potential projects and meet with investors from around the world. Many multi-national co-productions begin this way, and since there’s so much talk about film markets around here, I decided to see what it’s like to pitch a script at something as nerve-racking as the TPG.

Part 1 (128kbps MP3, 11.0mb, 12:06)

Part 2 (128kbps MP3, 13.3mb, 14:38)

Music from the Still Walking Original Soundtrack.

Many many thanks to Kenneth Bi for talking to this small-time blogger not just once, but twice. And I hope the second time is just as informative as the first for you out there. It sure was for me.

The Golden Rock - November 6th, 2008 Edition

- This isn’t any type of bias. I’m going over the Japanese box office numbers first because it has more detailed statistics. As reported before, John Woo’s Red Cliff made an amazing 960 million yen over the three-day weekend. Box Office Mojo reveals that its two-day gross is roughly 665 million yen, which means it has beaten Hero’s 2-day 630 million yen opening to be the biggest non-Japanese Asian film opening ever. Interesting to see that Suspect X actually saw its two-day box office went up compared to last weekend, even though it’s already in its 5th weekend and no other movie saw its gross go up.

Even though Departures has already dropped to 10th place, but it lost only 9.4% from the previous weekend. The smallest drop, however, went to Journey to the Center of the Earth, most likely due to the popularity of the 3D version. On the other hand, the largest drop went to Fumihiko Sori’s Ichi, which joins a long chain of flops released by Warner Bros. Japan, who hasn’t had a number 1 opening since February with L: Change the WorLd.

- In Taiwan box office, megablockbuster Cape No.7 has finally been knocked off the top spot after 10 weeks there. It’s been knocked to 3rd place by Tropic Thunder’s opening weekend and the second weekend of High School Musical 3. I don’t think the filmmakers are sad, though; it’s already made an amazing 447 million Taiwan New Dollars, and the highest-grossing Mandarin-language film in the region. Meanwhile, high-profile films Body of Lies and 20th Century Boys are definitely now flops. Again, without screen numbers and per-screen averages, it’s hard for me to make kind of detailed analysis, so remember to not just go by standings and numbers.

- Under “more Cape No. 7 news” today, the Taiwanese hit has now been given the green light for release by Mainland Chinese censors, thanks to a warming of the two region’s relationship.

But even when it reaches Mainland Chinese cinemas, the film and its fans still have to put up something as ignorant and idiotically paranoid as this.

- The Japanese press is finally reporting on the Japanese remake of Sideways currently shooting in California right now. According to this report from a week ago, the assistant producer of the Fuji TV-20th Century Fox production says that it’ll be a remake “with all the bad stuff taken out”, whatever the hell that means.

-  Under “films by Hong Kongers I’m not looking forward to yet” news today, Jackie Chan has announced that he will not only produce and star in his next film, but he will also write the Qin Dynasty-set road movie. He also chose a relatively unknown director to start shooting it next year.

Meanwhile, Jeff Lau, best known for his irrelevant Wong Kar-Wai-parodying comedies, will next make a movie named Robots, which is poised to be the Chinese version of Transformers. It will start shooting later this month.

- Young actor Yuya Yagira has posted his first blog entry since his accidental overdose back in August. He writes that he is now overseeing his first novel, a “wrenching love story” that he hopes will be turned into a film with him in the starring role. Please make something light with a happy ending already!

- The American Film Market is now underway, and the major news is Japanese production companies continuing to buy up Korean content, though now at a lower price than during the Korean wave.

A little preview - The Golden Rock will have an interview up here with someone who’s actually done his thing at these film markets perhaps this weekend.

- France and China are close to signing a co-production treaty that will allow the French film industry look to one of the world’s fastest-growing film markets.

- Two ex-Morning Musume members (they call them “graduates”, I call them ex-members. Let’s call the whole thing off) are teaming up for a new unit whose debut mini-album will be released simultaneously in the United States.

The Golden Rock - November 4th, 2008 Edition

- At the Korean box office, My Wife Got Married, starring Son Ye-jin takes the top spot for the second weekend in a row and has cracked the one million admissions mark. Other than that, it’s been a fairly quiet weekend.

More over at Korea Pop Wars.

-  We don’t have the Japan box office numbers yet, but we have the attendance chart. As expected, John Woo’s Red Cliff takes the top spot, bumping Suspect X to second place. 20th Century Boys director Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s Where the Legend Lives (his third theatrical release this year. Where does the man find the time?!) debuts at 3rd place, with the comedy Handsome Suits debuting behind at 4th place. Last week’s major Japanese debut films The Homeless Student and Ichi drop 3 places to 6th and 9th place, respectively. Departures is also looking to finally drop out of the top 10 after 8 weeks, dropping to 10th place this week.

We’ll see the two-day weekend numbers reported soon. Meanwhile, Variety reports that Red Cliff made a phenomenal US$9.73 million from 545 screens over the 3-day weekend. Avex, who reportedly poured US$35 million into the US$80 million 2-part film, must be breathing a sigh of relief now. They expect this first installment will make 4 billion yen (roughly US$40 million).

- As requested by a reader, let’s look at the Chinese box office numbers. Wanted, which got into China to my surprise due to its violent subject matter, spends it 3rd consecutive weekend at number 1, and has now made RMB68 million. Of course, it’s nowhere near the RMB227 million take of Painted Skin, which lost another 42% in business this weekend.

Meanwhile, Chui Siu Ming’s martial arts sports film Champions could only muster a 6th place opening with just RMB2.2 million. However, it might’ve opened at a small number of screens, so who know if it’s a true flop or not? The Mainland-targeted, Hong Kong-produced film opens next weekend in Hong Kong. Yesterday, I reported the disappointing Hong Kong gross for Jingle Ma’s Butterfly Lovers. The same adjective can be used for the film’s gross in China. After 4 weekends, it has only made RMB27 million.

- Let’s look at the Japanese drama ratings. Many of the dramas with high-rated premiere episodes aren’t holding up quite well. Kaze no Garden, which had a 20.1% premiere, has lost 24% of its audience over the last 3 weeks with a 15.4% rating for its 4th episode. The Kankuro Kudo-penned Ryusei no Kizuna is dropping even faster, having lost 30% of its audience since its 21.2%-rating premiere. Its third episode scored only a 15% rating. TBS’ Sunday drama Scandal, which started off with a promising 16.9%, has dropped to a 11.4% rating in its third week. Fuji also has a disappointment on its hands with its Monday 9pm drama Innocent Love. After its underwhelming 16.9% premiere, it dropped all the way down to a 13.3% rating in its second week.

Some dramas are holding up very well. Fuji’s Celeb to Binbo Taro is holding steady in its third week, seeing a small boost to a 15.2% for its latest episode. Aibou got a very good boost from the news of this being the last season and the popularity of the spin-off. After its impressive 17.9%-rating premiere, its second episode actually got a boost up to a 19.7% rating. Salaryman Kintaro and The Glorious Team Bastista also saw its rating go up for their latest episodes with 12.1% and 12.5%, respectively.

Now on to real news:

- The distributor for Chen Kaige’s Mei Lan Fang has confirmed that Twins’ Gillian Chung’s part in the film has been completely excised, with Chen expressing disappointment over the producers’ decision. It also now has a release date of December 12th in Mainland China and January 1st in Hong Kong.

- The Hollywood Reporter looks at the 2nd edition of the Pink Film Festival in Korea, which showcases Japanese erotic films. Funny enough, some audience members at the female-only opening night screenings complained that the films weren’t racy enough. Damn you, internet!!!

- Meanwhile, Variety looks at the Chinese American film festival happening in Hollywood, which will be screening films such as The Warlords and Sparrow.

- Jay Chou and Michelle Yeoh are now shooting Yuen Woo Ping’s latest directorial effort True Legend, telling a story that the Stephen Chow-starring King of Beggars has told before.

- Death Note star Tatsuya Fujiwara is taking on another comic adaptation film, and guess where the film’s first-time director comes from.

- Jason Gray reports that a Japanese movie channel will be showing all 28 Godzilla films over the next three months after it spent money on remastering all the print. Something to check out if you’re in Japan.

- Thanks to the Olympics, advertisement spending in China has reached a record-high this year. Damn capitalist pigs, indeed.

- After a string of retirement announcements, The Japanese Visual Kei band Shazna has announced its breakup after 25 years together.

- Fox is determined to make an aggressive attack on Asian television by revamping their Asian  FX network with some of the edgier programs from American basic and paid cable. Too bad the shows will be censored, but I guess it’s better than nothing.

The Golden Rock - November 3rd, 2008 Edition

Japan had a public holiday today, so a lot of figures can’t be updated yet, as well as less news. We’ll just have to do with what we got.

- Detroit Metal City expanded its dominance of the Hong Kong box office, especially after exhibitors added 7 more screens after its great opening day gross. From 26 screens, the crazy Japanese comedy made HK$929,000 on Sunday for a 4-day weekend total of HK$3.16 million. It’s certain that it’ll do better than 20th Century Boys, but we’ll wait and see whether it’ll do Death Note numbers.  On the other hand, Saw V didn’t get the adult audience boost that category III films get over the weekend. From 25 screens, the horror sequel made only HK$368,000 on Sunday for a 4-day weekend total of HK$1.57 million.

On the other hand, family film City of Ember did get a minor family film boost over the weekend with a Sunday take of HK$237,000 from 22 screens for a 4-day weekend total of HK$840,000. The indie comedy Smart People didn’t do so well, making HK$91,000 from 10 screens for a 4-day total of just HK$320,000. Miki Kotani’s hilarious The Magic Hour did much better on its limited release run over the weekend, making HK$40,000 from just 2 screens on Sunday for a 4-day weekend total of HK$130,000.

As for other films, High School Musical 3 got its weekend boost, making HK$813,000 from 40 screens on Sunday for a 10-day total of HK$7.64 million, which means it’ll definitely break the HK$10 million barrier. Tropic Thunder hangs on fairly well in its second weekend, making HK$486,000 from 31 screens for a 11-day total of HK$5.76 million, and has already has a better Hong Kong gross than Ben Stiller’s last film The Heartbreak Kid. Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies has a 24-day total of HK$5.89 million (so close to that HK$6 million!!!!), Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona has a 24-day total of HK$2.8 million, and Jingle Ma’s Butterfly Lovers is a bit of a bust, with just HK$5.74 million after 24 days.

-Tsui Siu-Ming’s martial arts-themed Champions also had preview screenings over the weekend here in Hong Kong. However, the Hong Kong Film blog looked at the ticket presales and saw a strange pattern. While most films would first sell out the middle and back rows, the seat charts the blogger found saw seat sales all over the place, including those in the front rows sold before those in the back were. Were those seats already bought out to create the illusion of packed preview screenings? Or were they just bought up to be passed out internally? Either way, it certainly seems shady.

- The American Film Market is about to get underway on Wednesday, one day after the U.S. presidential election and smack dab in the middle of a financial crisis. With Pusan and Tokyo already happening in the last two months, how will Asian films do at the market? Variety looks at expectations the attendees have before it all begins.

Japan’s Avex just paid one of the highest prices ever paid by a Japanese company for a Korean drama, except that it just flopped in the ratings with only a 7.1% for its premiere episode.

Not much news, and it’s getting late. So let’s wrap it up here. Hopefully there’s more tomorrow.

The Golden Rock - November 1st, 2008 Edition

Reminding you that our real day job around here is movie reviewing, LovehkFilm just updated with some new reviews. Boss Kozo gives us the reviews for the China-friendly kung fu cheesefest Wushu - The Young Generation, the Wong Jing-produced/scripted horror cheesefest The Vampire Who Admires Me, and the Hong Kong independent film Some Like it Hot. Yours truly offers you my takes on the Japanese dog flick 10 Promises With My Dog, the Korean odd couple comedy Santamaria, and the Korean family-friendly melodrama Unforgettable. I promise you the next batch of Korean stuff is better.

- Five of the six movies that opened this weekend got on the top 10 of the Hong Kong box office chart on Thursday opening day. Opening very strongly on top is the Japanese comedy Detroit Metal City. On just 19 screens (really?!), it made a very impressive HK$467,000. Expect theaters to add more screens over the weekend, and judging from the reaction at the screening I went to, expect this to do better than 20th Century Boys. Landing in second is Saw V, which made HK$315,000 from 25 screens.

More disappointing is the opening for City of Ember, which made HK$126,000 from 22 screens. It might get boost from the weekend family audience. On the other hand, the indie comedy Smart People won’t get that boost, and it only made HK$48,000 from 10 screens. Despite packed screenings and very positive reactions from the HKAFF, The Magic Hour made only HK$15,000 from 2 screens on opening day. The one film that didn’t make it to the top ten is Hur Jin-Ho’s Happiness, which opened on only two screens as well. More when the numbers come in on Monday

- Let’s look at some opening weekend data for a few Japanese films that opened last week:

There was fairly high expectations for the first film version of the hit novel The Homeless Student (Homeless Chugakusei). However, not only did it only open at third place this past weekend , its opening gross (115 million yen from 309 screens) was only 59% of Tokyo Tower’s opening gross (that ended up doing 1.88 billion yen). Since Tokyo Tower’s gross was helped by word-of-mouth, The Homeless Student may even have trouble getting to the 1 billion yen mark.

By the way, The Homeless Student is directed by Tomoyuki Furuyama, who made This Window is Yours, the 1993 PIA Scholarship film I briefly reviewed in the last entry.

Opening under The Homeless Student is Free and Easy’s 19th film. From 178 screens, the long-running film series made 67.89 million, which is actually the exact same opening gross as the previous film. Also, since the film attracts a large number of elderly audience (who pay only 1,000 yen per ticket), it ended up debuting at only 7th place on the box office gross chart, even though it’s 4th place on the attendance chart.

The exact opposite thing happened to Journey to the Center of the Earth. Since half of its 104 screens are playing the 3D version, this means a large number of tickets sold were on an inflated price. From 104 screens, the film made a total of 120 million yen, with the 3D version responsible for 76% of that gross. As a result, even though the film only ended up at 7th place of the attendance chart, it ended up being either 3rd of 4th place on the box office gross chart. For some reason, the Box Office Mojo is lower than the number Mr. Texas reported. Either way, the point is that the price of the ticket boosted the film’s place, which shows how inaccurate it is to purely look at a film’s success with gross.

- This weekend in Japanese box office, John Woo’s Red Cliff is expected to top the box office this weekend. After all, it already broke the record for advance ticket sales of an Asian film in Japan.

In case you don’t know, there is a type of movie tickets in Japan that are sold in advance for a cheaper price, and some outlets even continue to sell them after the movie has already opened. Each ticket also have the film’s art on it, and they’d be worth collecting if they didn’t cost the price of a movie ticket.

Also, The Daily Yomiuri’s Ikuko Kitagawa has a feature on Red Cliff, but I’m sure you’ve probably read all this if you care about the film.

- In related news, the Golden Horse Awards committee had originally nominated actor Taiwan-born/half-Japanese Takeshi Kaneshiro for Outstanding Taiwanese filmmaker of the year for his roles in Red Cliff and The Warlords. However, after learning that Kaneshiro holds only Japanese nationality, he’s now been disqualified. Then again, he would’ve lost against the director of Cape No. 7 anyway.

- Oh, yeah, here are the nominees for this year’s Golden Horse Awards. Congratulations to Pang Ho-Cheung for the four nominations for Trivial Matters and to Peter Chan for the 12 nominations for The Warlords. My sympathies to John Woo and Johnnie To for their lack of nominations in the major awards category.

- Jason Gray looks at the proposed remake of Akira Kurosawa’s High And Low, which has some very high-profile American filmmakers onboard (David Mamet penning the screenplay?! Mike Nichols as director?!).

- Lastly, Twitch has a teaser for the Kenkuro Kudo-penned comedy Donju.

 
 
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