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Commentary: Asian-starred films are praised worldwide, but why not Hong Kong films?

Debate still rages on whether Hong Kong cinema is dead, but after cinemas reopened in the second half of 2022, the Hong Kong film industry has seen a remarkable rebound.

Korean action thriller released in 2016 <부산행>to become the third highest-grossing Asian film in Hong Kong. Courtroom drama A Guilty Conscience became the first non-English language film to join the HK$100 million (US$12.7 million) box office club.Until now, Hollywood blockbusters have dominated..

Several factors contribute to the comeback of Hong Kong cinema. First, it follows extensive recovery. local show business. several films appearing in Hong Kong boy band MIRROR Exceeded HK$300,000. The lack of entertainment available in the zero-corona era also created demand for comedy and led to the success of Table For Six, which grossed HK$77 million.

Moreover, urban sentiment favors the rebirth of local cinema. Influencers and netizens promoted Hong Kong’s first big-budget sci-fi film, Warriors of Future, after it performed poorly in China. This reflects calls to protect the local culture and Hong Kong identity after the 2019 and 2020 anti-extradition protests.

Off the radar for international audiences

Outside the domestic market, however, Hong Kong films are struggling. International box office results have shown that Hong Kong films do not appeal to international audiences.

Despite having familiar faces like Louis Koo and Sean Lau Ching Wan in Warriors of Future, the reality is that no Hong Kong film can gross more than RMB 1 billion (US$146 million) in China. In Taiwan, A Guilty Conscience failed to reach NT$1 million (US$32,800) in its first week of release, a benchmark that even new Hong Kong films would be hard to come by now.

Many Hong Kong films that have been well received domestically do not even have a chance to screen in Southeast Asia, a historically important market. The migration wave allowed more Hong Kong films to be screened in the UK. But from what I’ve observed in London cinemas, the percentage of British audiences is much lower than Korean and Japanese films.

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