And who will go see them? In 1992, Hong Kong films earned $160 million at the local box office; last year that take was nearly halved, to $85 million. And though Hong Kong remains the rare free-market region whose homemade films outgrow the Hollywood invaders, the locals' share has plummeted in four years from 80% to 54%. That has led to a slashing of the typical movie budget, from nearly $3 million to about $1.5 million. In such a stringent climate, producers naturally drool when they look to the mainland. But Beijing has said it would not relax its quota system, which allows release of only 10 foreign films a year, including Hollywood big movies.
Hong Kong producers see the mainland not only as a revenue wellspring but also as a great place to make cheaper movies. But if you shoot on their real estate, you'll have to play by their rules.
A Hong Kong producer who has worked at home and in the U.S. received a recent offer to co-produce a film on the mainland. There were three provisions: the film would have no unseemly political content, would make no observations about the Chinese military and would have no explicit sex or violence. If mainland authorities impose similarly draconian censorship laws on movies made in Hong Kong, the 12-year new wave could dry up in no time.
So "boo-hoo", July 1. And bye-bye, maybe, to flush days of Hong Kong films. But if we anticipate the worst, that only puts us in a mood to remember the best. From half a world away, one fan looks back on the glories and goofiness of the most vibrant, hectic, money-mad, in-spite-of-itself-artistic cinema around.
Local audiences may be tired of Hong Kong films and ready to embrace Hollywood, karaoke or a good...