CNY Movies: Round #1

February 13, 2008

It is interesting how Stephen Chow’s CJ7 and Jack Neo’s Ah Long Pte Ltd emerged the frontrunners of the three Chinese New Year movies given the extent to which these movies were sidelined (especially by Golden Village) in favour of Jay Chou’s (oops, or rather, Kevin Chu’s) Kungfu Dunk.

As reported in the 12 Feb 08 edition of mypaper, Stephen Chow is the undisputed box office champion over the Chinese New Year period in Singapore, making S$2 million. This also broke the record set by Chow’s previous film Kungfu Hustle, which, at S$1.89 million, was the biggest opening weekend for all Chinese films released in Singapore’s history. Jack Neo’s Ah Long Pte Ltd garnered $1.47 million, while Jay Chou’s Kungfu Dunk earned a rather measly $1.4 million (in comparison to the other two movies). Given the similar amounts of advertising of all 3 movies, and the strong popularity of the leads in all the three movies, I admit that Jay Chou’s meagre box office takings do come as a surprise.

Now, just consider this. If local movie distributors had actually allocated even more movie timeslots and larger cinema halls for the screening of CJ7 and Ah Long Pte Ltd, which incidentally played to a lot of sell-out shows, the figures you see will not be just S$2 million and S$1.4 million, but much higher than that (Who knows, CJ7 could have even hit the $3 million-mark!!)

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Within the same article, Mr Jack Neo made a preposterous, nonsensical and baffling statement which does not have a reasoning behind.

Quoting the relevant paragraphs from the article:
The strong opening was a morale boost for Neo, whose movie was largely panned by critics. “When I make a film, I insist on quality. My movies are not rubbish. I made them with a conscience.”
He added with a laugh: “I think my detractors are very disappointed”.

Now it is understandable that Mr Neo is driven with all the ecstasy in the world given the positive box office takings his movie has taken in over the opening weekend (He even managed to beat Jay Chou!)

However, on the same note, the following equation which he is trying to imply oh-so-boastfully-yet-delusionally is irksome: Good box office takings = High Quality movies

Since when did such an equation ever exist? High quality movies is merely a subset of movies with good box office takings. Movies with good box office showings does NOT have to be of high quality and critically-acclaimed, they just need to have the right audience appeal.

Mr Neo seems to be implying that his movie is better than those Academy Award-nominated ones such as “Juno”, “La Vie En Rose”, “The Diving Bell and Butterfly”, “Away From Her”, “Atonement” for example, which evidently are unable to match “Ah Long Pte Ltd” in terms of box office showings, due to a lack of mass appeal for the local audiences.

Equating the above theory to the Chinese music scene, it appears that indie musicians such as sodagreen and Cheer Chen, who do not sell as well as boybands like Fahrenheit and Lollipop (Yeah, I know, the names of Chinese boybands are getting from bad to worse. And you thought 5566 was corny enough?), had better start finding a change of day jobs. They do not sell as well as those boybands, so, given the theory which Mr Neo swears by, what’s with their indie credentials? Fahrenheit and Lollipop are the better singers with the better songs what!

All this, is just delusional crap and self-indulgence. Doh.

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The tides have changed, the trends have shifted, the fad has passed, the world has evolved. (ok you probably get the gist)

mrbrown made the acute observation that most screens in Singapore are only offering 4 movies throughout this CNY festive season – Ah Long Pte Ltd, CJ7, Kung Fu Dunk and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Meanwhile, let’s take Sweeney Todd out of the picture of our discussion as it is evidently sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the other CNY feel-good movies. (The movie genre sticks out like a sore thumb in the first place, albeit in an interesting sort of way – a macabre gory musical – nice!)

The sad observation I have made is that, amongst GV screens at least, there seems to be a certain belittling of the King of Chinese Comedy in terms of box office draws and people pull, by said movie distributorship organisation. And this is in spite of the fact that Stephen Chow movies have been affirmed box office hits throughout the years. 

If you pay close attention to the Golden Village movie timeslots, of the three Chinese festive movies, it is Kung Fu Dunk which has been assigned the most movie timeslots, opening on more screens than the other two. And if you have bothered clicking on the timeslot links, you’d notice that the halls assigned for Kungfu Dunk seats more people than the halls reserved for CJ7 and Ah Long Pte Ltd

What, so they think Stephen Chow and Jack Neo cannot hold their ground against Jay Chou, who incidentally is more renowned for his music than his movies? As opposed to the former two who have made the movie industry his bread and butter throughout the years?

It has now become apparent that, through some close monitoring of their seats availability page (as I intend to catch a movie or two), seats in halls for Stephen Chow’s CJ7 and Jack Neo’s Ah Long Pte Ltd are ‘selling fast’ or ‘sold out’ despite it being so early in the day and the movies only being shown at night. Why then, do they not cater bigger halls for these movies, since movies by these directors have been confirmed box office draws in the past?

Of course detractors are bound to argue that in economical terms, more timeslots and bigger halls will eventually lead to a more even distribution of audiences for Jay Chou’s movie. On the other hand, why let this happen in the first place? Why not ensure a more even distribution of audiences for the other two movies as well?

The following are some screenshots of the seat availability of the three movies at selected cinemas at timeslots close to each other. (CAA 8th Feb 2008, 1205hrs GMT +8.00)

GV Tampines

Stephen Chow - CJ7 @ 2305hrs
CH7 @ 2305hrs
Jack Neo's Ah Long Pte Ltd @ 2240hrs 
Ah Long Pte Ltd @ 2240hrs

Jay Chou's KungFu Dunk @ 2250 hrs
Kungfu Dunk @ 2250hrs

GV Jurong Point 

GV Jurong Point - CJ7 @ 2130hrs
CJ7 @ 2130hrs
GV Jurong Pt - Ah Long Pte Ltd @ 2100hrs
Ah Long Pte Ltd @ 2000hrs
GV Jurong Pt - Kungfu Dunk
Kungfu Dunk @ 2105hrs

[Legend: Light blue means the seats are available, dark blue means the seats are taken, purple means the seats are “blocked” due to ongoing transactions]

On a sidenote, realise how people technically go “Jack Neo’s Ah Long Pte Ltd” and not “Mark Lee’s Ah Long Pte Ltd” or “Fann Wong’s Ah Long Pte Ltd”? Until someone actually goes Kevin Chu’s “Kungfu Dunk”, all the limelight is being taken away from him! (Though I doubt anyone can name him in the first place)

*Written by aR