The Taiwanese film industry has seen rocketing box office results this summer, with four local films making record-breaking box office takings and bringing in a movie-going wave in the island of 23 million people.
Giddens Ko’s youth drama You Are the Apple of My Eye took in $3.9m (NT$110m) in the first four days of its release, setting a new record of opening-weekend gross of a local film in Taiwanese film history. The film is also so far the biggest Taiwanese film in 2011.
Written and adapted from Ko’s autobiographical novel of the same title, the story is a high school romance set in 1990s South Taiwan. It is Ko’s debut feature film starring first time actor Ko Chen-tung and Michelle Chen. The $1.25m film is backed by Sony Music and Taipei-based TV production and talent management company Comic Ritz; it marks the first time that Sony’s record label has invested in a Chinese-language film. Sony Music also handles international sales for the film.
In the same week, two other Taiwanese films scored higher than expected box office takings: Jump, Ashin, a drama about a young gymnast by Lin Yu-hsien and black comedy The Killer who Never Kills each took in around $1.7m (NT$47m) in the weekend of Aug 21.
Previously in July, low-budgeted suspense thriller Make Up made an impressive $800,000 (NT$22m). Before the weekend of Aug 21, the four local films have made a total of $7.86m (NT$220m) — that’s half of the total local film gross of 2010. Last year, a total of 50 Taiwanese productions made a total gross of $16.1m.
“Besides the production factor, one common reason for these local films’ success is their effective marketing campaigns,” said Jennifer Jao, director of Taipei Film Commission, a government body which provides production assistance as well as film marketing services. “The biggest difference of these local films is that they created media hype before the release dates and the cinema managers became more willing to open more screens for the release.”
Taiwanese productions previously account for less than 10% of the total film market while Hollywood productions dominate the market with normally a 90-plus percent market share.
This year, with the summer sales boom, and the upcoming war epic Warrior of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale to be released in early September, and upcoming Taiwan-China co-production such as Tom Lin’s Starry Starry Night produced by Huayi Brothers and Atom Films to open in late 2011, Taiwanese industry players predict that this year local film box office will reach $53.57m (NT$1.5bn), with a growth rate reaching 300%. “We expect the market share of Taiwanese film to increase to between 35% and 40%,” said Jao.