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Financial Woes Spur Box Office

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So why are we talking about the movie industry when the financial world is melting around our ears? Simple. The global movie industry will still, apparently, rake in the moolah, financial meltdown or no.

US officials have already admitted a recession; but Max Payne is just killing at the box office! The Mark Wahlberg starrer pulled in US$6.75 million (46.3 million yuan) on its opening day in America. As this issue went to press, the weekend box office reported a US$17.6 million (120.6 million yuan) take and counting.

And while the rest of the American business world is down in the dumps, with Asia following on its heels, Max Payne has given its US distributor Fox Film Corp. something to smile about. The video-game- based film is Fox’s first No. 1 box office topper in half a year.

US audiences appear to be in no mood for films that will make them ponder reality and weep when they’re already crying a river and their wallets are on life support.

The big news the week before Max Payne opened was that Beverly Hills Chihuahua licked (excuse the imagery) Leo Di Caprio and Russell Crowe’s Body of Lies at the box office. The top dog earned US$17.5 million (119.96 million yuan) on its SECOND weekend (it earned US$29.3 million (89.8 million yuan) on its first), while the Leo/Russell war movie made only US$13.1 million on its FIRST.

As with any business plan that desires sustainability, Hollywood is targeting its largest potential market: Asia, China in particular. So you have Chinese actors, directors, story lines, and homages (remakes).

I have no beef with Asian story lines being tweaked into Hollywood-style releases. I enjoyed The Departed immensely (another Wahlberg starrer, plus a dozen Hollywood marquee names, Martin Scorsese topping the list. Oh, Di Caprio too.). But I much prefer the more nuanced Infernal Affairs (Mou gaan dou). The latter had more gray areas, less distinction between bad guy and good guy. Therefore, more sophisticated, more Asian.

The stories in this issue will tell you more about China’s—and Asia’s— place in the world of big box office takes.

Another thing about Max Payne: If I didn’t read that John Moore directed it, I would’ve guessed the director to be John Woo.


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