We are now well into 2023. Pleasingly, the revival of Hong Kong films at the local box office which started in mid-2022 has continued. The future of Hong Kong cinema may be uncertain, but it is certainly looking brighter than it did in the few years before 2022. More hits have appeared, new talents are emerging, Louis Koo is as committed to supporting the Hong Kong film industry as ever, and there is now a new king at the local box office who can attract massive crowds at the cinemas.
The Sparring Partner
The Unexpected Final Hit of 2022
When the legal drama ‘The Sparring Partner’ opened to a disappointing HK$ 200,000 on its first day of release, it looked destined to become another Hong Kong film that would disappear from local cinemas without being noticed. Yet, solid word of mouth drove admissions up and its box office returns kept on climbing. It went on to earn over HK$ 42 million, making it the third highest grossing Hong Kong film of 2022 (only behind ‘Warriors of Future’ and ‘Table for Six’). It was also the fourth film released in 2022 to achieve over HK$ 40 million at the box office, making it the first ever time in Hong Kong cinema history to have four local releases to cross that mark in the same year. It now stands as the all-time highest grossing Category 3 local film, beating 2011’s ‘3D Sex and Zen’ (HK$ 41 million).
The Rise of New Talents and the Power of Mirror
Looking at the top 5 grossing Hong Kong films at the local box office, one can easily observe a trend – the rise of new directors:
No. 1: ‘Warriors of Future’ by Ng Yuen-fai (directorial debut) – HK$ 81.9 million
No. 2: ‘Table for Six’ by Sunny Chan (second feature film following ‘Men on the Dragon’) – HK$ 77 million
No. 3: ‘The Sparring Partner’ by Ho Cheuk-tin (directorial debut) – HK$ 42 million
No. 4: ‘Mama’s Affair’ by Kearen Pang (second feature film following ‘29+1’) – HK$ 41 million
No. 5: ‘Chilli Laugh Story’ by Coba Cheng (directorial debut) – HK$ 32.7 million
Pleasingly, there were also a lot of fresh faces in the cast of 2022’s commercial and critical hits, such as Angela Yuen Lai-lam (‘Chilli Laugh Story’, ‘The Narrow Road’, ‘Hong Kong Family’), Peter Chan Charm-man (‘Table for Six’), Mak Pui-tung (‘The Sparring Partner’) and Yeung Wai-yun (‘The Sparring Partner’).
The popular boy group Mirror has extended its influence from music to film, with its members starring in a number of 2022’s hit movies. Edan Lui led with 2 hits, ‘Chilli Laugh Story’ and ‘Hong Kong Family’ (which earned HK$ 11.6 million). Keung To and Jer Lau starred in ‘Mama’s Affair’. Anson Lo co-starred with Edan in ‘Hong Kong Family’. While a fourth film starring a Mirror member, Anson Kong’s ensemble romantic comedy ‘Love Suddenly’, was not as well received, the boys from Mirror have no doubt helped to draw extra attention to every film that they have appeared in.
The Mysterious ‘Mr. K’ and the Magnificent Mr. Koo
‘The Sparring Partner’ attracted some much-needed publicity after its producer Philip Yung wrote on social media that when his film needed an extra HK$ 1 million to complete production, ‘Mr. K’ helped without any hesitation. The post led to a lot of speculations around the identity of ‘Mr. K’, who many believed to be Louis Koo because that was the kind of good deeds Koo has been doing for the Hong Kong film industry for many years.
Talking about Louis Koo (Hong Kong Film Never Dies #3: This man may hold the key to the future of HK cinema), the man has been working tirelessly to support Hong Kong cinema, and it looks like he is not going to stop any time soon. When promoting his big-budget film ‘Warriors of Future’, Koo mentioned that the film marked the conclusion of the first 10 years of his 30-year plan for his film company One Cool Group. He also announced that the following 20 years will see the release of many more locally produced sci-fi projects and films featuring CG special effects, which he sees as the future of Hong Kong cinema.
A New King of the Box Office
After years of being labelled a ‘cinema box office poison’, despite achieving great success in television and stand-up comedy, actor Dayo Wong Chi-wah (Eastern Eye: Dayo Wong) has now firmly established himself as the new king of the Hong Kong box office. His massive 2022 hit ‘Table for Six’ earned over HK$ 77 million and ranked number 2 in the year. His previous 2 films before ‘Table for Six’, 2018’s ‘Agent Mr. Chan’ and 2020’s ‘The Grand Grandmaster’, were the top grossing local films in their years of release with earnings of HK$ 44.7 million and 29.5 million respectively.
A Guilty Conscience
Wong’s winning streak has continued with the 2023 Lunar New Year release of his new legal drama, ‘A Guilty Conscience’, from the team behind the 2021 box office champion, ‘Anita’ (which earned HK$ 62.4 million). ‘A Guilty Conscience’ has been smashing records right from the start and remains unstoppable. It is now the all-time highest grossing Hong Kong film at the local box office and the first local film in history to cross the magical HK$ 100 million mark.
2023 is certainly off to a promising start for Hong Kong cinema. Hopefully, the rest of the year will see the release of many, many more popular and acclaimed Hong Kong films, just like the remarkable 2022.
Hong Kong film never dies! Never give up your dreams, Hong Kong filmmakers!
(This is the third and final of a three-part series looking at 2022, Hong Kong cinema’s year of miracles.)
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- Hong Kong Film Never Dies #12: “A dream you don’t have to fight for isn’t a dream.” - March 3, 2023
- Hong Kong Film Never Dies #11: “If records refuse to be broken, shatter them.” - November 14, 2022