One of the hottest topics of conversation at the Hong Kong international film & TV market (FilMart) is not the level of deal-making at the event, or even the forthcoming World Cup final, but the enduring box-office success of local hit comedy Shaolin Soccer.
As World Cup fever continues to dominate Japan, football-themed Hong Kong hit Shaolin Soccer this week climbs back to number three in the country's chart, below I Am Sam and the ubiquitous Spider-Man. With an impressive total gross to date of $2.4m in Japan after just three weeks on release, and successfully fending off competition from less topical US studio titles such as Kate & Leopold and The Scorpion King, the Stephen Chiao film has proved a huge hit across Asia.
It earned more than $7.7m (HK$60M) on release in Hong Kong last year, becoming the territory's highest-grossing film on record and going on to sweep seven prizes at April's Hong Kong Film Awards, including best film and best director. Its latest success has been in South Korea - Japan's World Cup co-hosts - where it grossed $1.2m in its first three days on release in May, timed to cash in on the build-up to the football tournament. After a month its total has climbed to exceed $4m, or some 800,000 spectators.
The film, a comedy about a country bumpkin who uses his kung fu powers to lead a team of monks in the national football finals, is due for a US release sometime before next spring. US distributor Miramax, which originally planned to release Shaolin Soccer in time for the World Cup, is believed to have delayed it in order to dub the Cantonese-language film into English.