Thursday, December 24, 2020


THE EIGHT HUNDRED becomes the highest grossing film under the pandemic

TENET is the highest grossing film in Hong Kong and among the top ten highest grossing in China and globally, but experts say that it can only break even so far due to its high cost

Both LEAP and CAUGHT IN TIME have Hong Kong directors and perform well in the Mainland

THE GRAND GRANDMASTER is the highest grossing Hong Kong film this year
courtesy of

Almost the entire 2020 was under the pandemic's effect. As gathering restriction orders took effect, cinemas around the world almost suspended operation as the film industry entered an unprecedented "winter". In Hong Kong alone, cinemas closed on three occasions. TENET took the risk to open during the pandemic and became this year's box office champion with HK$ 54.9 million; Mainland blockbusters that often made over 1 billion RMB would be left in the dust overseas. The strongest among them WOLF WARRIOR 2 in 2017 was only in seventh place in the 2017 global box office; as Hollywood blockbusters either delayed their releases and switched to streaming platforms, THE EIGHT HUNDRED with over 3 billion RMB became the first Mainland film to top the global box office.

In March the second wave of pandemic erupted in Hong Kong. The government requested cinemas to suspend operation for 14 days from March 28th then extended the period three times until early May. When the third wave of the pandemic erupted, cinemas again suspended operation from mid July to the end of August. When the fourth wave of the pandemic struck, starting December 2nd all Hong Kong cinemas closed and conceivably would not open up again this year. Actually, even in operation they had admission rate restrictions that affected the box office. When local cinema circuits suspended operation, they were accused for downsizing, holidays without pay and delaying rent payment. According to Orange Sky Golden Harvest Entertainment's mid term earning report this year, its 7 cinemas with 24 screens in the first half of the year only had 300,000 in attendance, a decline of 72% from the same period last year. Its box office was HK$ 19 million, a 80% drop from the same period last year.

As cinemas suspended operation, box office inevitably declined. According to the Hong Kong Motion Pictures Industry Association and the Hong Kong Theaters Association's Hong Kong Box Office Co. Ltd provided numbers, in the first half of this year 125 films were released in Hong Kong, 18 were domestic films. The first half of the year's total box office as HK$ 293 million, a 71.97% drop from HK$ 1.045 billion last year. Although the numbers for the second half of the year have not been announced, the performance was expected to be even worse after losing golden slots of summer vacation and Christmas.

This year's highest grossing film in Hong Kong was the September Hollywood film release TENET, which accumulated HK$ 54.9 million. In second was the pre-pandemic Lunar New Year film release THE GRAND GRANDMASTER (YUT DOI JUNG SI) with HK$ 29.45 million. In third was the Japanese animation THE MOVIE DEMON SLAYER: KIMETSU NO YAIBA MUGEN TRAIN, if not for the cinema closure midway through its release, the highest grossing film in Japan this year would not just made HK$ 29.1 million at the Hong Kong box office.

TENET was INCEPTION director Christopher Nolan's new film. Due to its subject, its Hong Kong release became the talk of the town. However, TENET made only 450 million RMB in the Mainland. As of this writing it was the only foreign film that broke into the Mainland's top ten box office chart this year, albeit being in the last spot. The highest grossing film in the Mainland was THE EIGHT HUNDRED, then its was MY PEOPLE MY HOMELAND with 2.8 billion RMB and in third was the animation JIANG ZIYA: LEGEND OF DEIFICATION. The Peter Chan Ho Sun directed, Gong Li starred LEAP, the story of the Lang Ping coached Chinese Women's Nation Volleyball Team's Olympic victory, came in fifth. In sixth was the Wang Qianyuan and Daniel Wu (Ng Yin Cho) starred police film CAUGHT IN TIME (CHUI BO), its director Lau Ho Leung started as a Hong Kong screen writer. CAUGHT IN TIME was only his second film as a director.

Published in the Mainland earlier, FILM BLUE BOOK: GLOBAL FILM INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT REPORT 2020 predicted that this year's global film box office would only reach 20% of last year and that in first eleven months of the year the Mainland box office was 16.5 billion RMB, 27.5% of the 60 billion RMB last year. As for the global top ten box office, THE EIGHT HUNDRED also was on top; the pre-pandemic release BAD BOYS FOR LIFE came in second and TENET in third. The box office site Box Office Mojo listed the Mainland animation JIANG ZIYA in sixth place of the top ten highest grossing films worldwide. However the Mainland second place box office champion MY PEOPLE MY COUNTRY did not break into the top ten, perhaps due to the fact that the film has still yet to be released in the U.S.

THE GRAND GRANDMASTER (MUK DOI JUNG SI) was this year's highest grossing Hong Kong films. Its distributor Golden Scene Film's boss Winnie Tsang Lai Fun said that Golden scene last year's box office take was HK$ 72 million, this year's estimate would be only HK$ 59 million -- a 20% drop. In addition the revenue mainly relied on THE GRAND GRANDMASTER. She said that under the pandemic, all the schedule delays have had the worst impact. Some films originally had great box office trends, but as cinemas closed the momentum has already stopped when they returned. Film distribution amount also was inevitably reduced. "Golden Scene last year distributed 27 movies, but only 17 this year -- a 40% reduction." Its investment also became cautious. "We reduce high priced film purchases because we have no guarantee that would be released. The risk is great."

Winnie mentioned that Hollywood films due to the pandemic gave up on theatrical release and directly sold the rights to streaming platforms. The lack of promotions overseas indirectly affected these films' Hong Kong release box office. Golden Scene next year plans to release the Adam Wong Sau Ping directed THE WAY WE KEEP DANCING (KONG MO PAI 3), I STILL REMEMBER (YI CHI YUN SUN) and THE ATTORNEY (YUT CUP JI HUNG).

Mainly distributing Korean films like WHAT A MAN WANTS and BELIEVER, Megaton Entertainment revealed that this year it did not release any movie. Originally scheduled for release earlier this month, DIVA also due to cinema closure was postponed and leading to this year's box office revenue to be a "goose egg"; even if cinemas would open again next month it might not be able to be scheduled for release. Many Christmas and New Year blockbusters have already been waiting for their release, like the originally Christmas release WONDER WOMAN 1984. Cinema circuits would mostly release the blockbusters first, as medium to small scale films would have to go to the "back of the line".

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