Fri, Dec 31, 2004 - Page 17 News List

Do the hustle

`Kung Fu Hustle' was the surprising winner at the local box office this year

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

It was a very strange night last Friday at Taipei's cinemas. A sea of people were crammed in Ximending, Warner Village and Showtime Cinemas to see Kung Fu Hustle (功夫). Tickets for all screenings that night had been booked or were sold out. The huge crowd made Warner Village and Showtime Cinema show extra screenings until 3am.

A cinema owner said it had been a long time since they had stayed up so late for a film. Even more unusual was that was for a Chinese-language film.

Stephen Chow's (周星馳) Kung Fu Hustle has proven to be a record-breaking cash machine for Taiwan's box office this year. During the two-and-a-half-day Christmas weekend the film grossed more than NT$50 million in the greater Taipei area and over NT$100 million in the whole country. It is expected that after the New Year's weekend the film's gross will reach NT$200 million. That will surpass The Day After Tomorrow and become the highest-grossing film for this year's Taiwan box office.

Kung Fu Hustle was the biggest dark horse movie this year. Before the film opened, the best-selling film in Taiwan this year had been the disaster film The Day After Tomorrow. Tomorrow, which grossed NT$180 million in Taiwan and set a first-day box-office record of NT$10 million. But this record was broken last Friday night by Kung Fu Hustle, with the crowds of people on Friday night causing a box office take of NT$15 million.

Kung Fu Hustle will not only beat Hollywood films and top the box office chart for 2004, but it has another record to break -- namely, to overtake the record of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (臥虎藏龍) from the year 2000 and which become the highest-grossing Chinese-language film in Taiwan film history, taking NT$200 million.

The 2004 box office in Taiwan has slightly improved from a SARS-stricken 2003. The second best-selling foreign film was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, grossing NT$134 million. Spiderman 2 stands at third, taking NT$132 million. And the fourth and fifth place was a battle between The Last Samurai and The Incredibles. The former took NT$102 million and the latter now has taken NT$95 million and is still on general release.

Such a ranking is not so different from that of the US chart, except for The Last Samurai, which fell out of the top 10 in the US domestic chart but stayed high in Taiwan. Taiwanese audiences are loyal to Tom Cruise.

As for Chinese-language films, Kung Fu Hustle took top place, easily, and pushed Zhang Yi-mou's (張藝謀) House of Flying Daggers (十面埋伏) down to second. House of Flying Daggers grossed NT$35 million, which is less than half of Zhang's last film, Hero (英雄). Hero last year was number one on the Chinese-language box office chart, grossing some NT$80 million.

Wang Kar Wai's (王家衛) star-studded romance drama 2046 came in third place with NT$11 million in box office takings. This performance equals the box office of his previous film In The Mood For Love (花樣年華). Such numbers can be seen as a maximum gross for a Wang Kar Wai-style drama. It took Wang six years to finish the film, so the price is a little too high.

The most surprising film was Taiwanese documentary Gift of Life (生命), by Wu Yi-feng (吳乙峰). The film was the highest grossing documentary in Taiwan box office history, taking NT$10 million. Depicting people surviving and carrying on their lives after the 921 earthquake, the film was helped by many non-profit organizations with its marketing. Accumulated public praise was added to the endorsement of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and the movie, as a result, did well in the charts.

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