The tradition over Chinese New Year in Hong Kong is to spend time with family and friends, to gather them together -- and to head off to the cinema.
And while for most of the year, Hollywood films dominate box office takings here, the New Year gives local filmmakers a chance to fill their coffers by producing very local productions - that are for the most part entirely uplifting - as the city basically shuts down for the four-day holiday from February 13.
"It's a long holiday and so it's a real family holiday and that's why family comedies are so popular because people get together and go and see them together,'' Hong Kong-based film critic Paul Fonoroff told Relaxnews.
"Generally the most successful films have been the star-studded comedies but these days people's loyalties to local stars and local cinema are not what they were so it will be interesting to see how things go this year.''
As Fonoroff points out, while there have been some exceptions - producers of the gritty Keanu Reeves thriller Constantine in 2005 took a gamble by opening the film first in Asia to coincide with Chinese New Year and were rewarded to the tune of almost US$12 million (8.8 million euros) in takings over four days - the films released are either light-hearted family comedies or martial arts actioners with a positive message. And with a cast list full of local A-list stars.
Throw in a few lightweight Hollywood productions (this year Chris Columbus's Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief and the animated The Princess and The Frog) and the result is the busiest box office period of the year.
"It's only fitting that you have a jolly film to watch during the Lunar New Year holidays,'' director Raymond Wong once said. And he should know. He's been producing films specifically themed for Chinese New Year for two decades and he has another one ( All's Well End's Well Too 2010) set for release this week.
Here's a rundown on Hong Kong's Chinese New Year releases:
Out on February 11:
- 72 Tenants of Prosperity: An update on the Shaw Brothers' studio's 1972 classic "The House of 72 Tenants'' takes the tale of unscrupulous landlords fighting with their plucky tenants to the modern day streets of Mong Kok. Eric Tsang, Jacky Cheung and Anita Yuen star.
- All's Well End's Well Too 2010: Director Raymond Wong started the franchise in 1992 and again relies on an all-star cast for his laughs. It's a slapstick tale of star-crossed lovers set in the Song Dynasty - but featuring loads of modern-day cultural references. Louis Koo and Sandra Ng star.
- 14 Blades: A Ming Dynasty martial arts master (Donnie Yen) trains orphans to become ruthless bodyguards who vow to protect the emperor. Vicki Zhao Wei and Qi Yuwu also star.
- True Legend: Legendary martial arts film-maker Yuen Woo-Ping - who worked on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Kill Bill - tries his hand at what is being marketed as the first 3D kung-fu. It looks at the life of a Qing Dynasty man determined to develop a unique fighting school. Vincent Zhao, Jay Chou and Michelle Yeoh star.
Out on February 18:
Hot Summer Days: Six love stories twist and turn into one another's paths over one hot summer. A first all-Chinese production for 20th Century Fox and they call on an all-star cast that includes Jacky Cheung, Rene Liu, Nicholas Tse, Barbie Hsu, Daniel Wu and Vivian Hsu.
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