Scene set for box office smash

Updated: 2015-08-07 07:28

By Sophie He(China Daily USA)

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Celebrity agent Paco Wong feels the time is right for the more experienced Hong Kong movie industry to maximize returns from the growing mainland sector. Sophie He reports.

The most significant change in the entertainment industry on the Chinese mainland has been the fast expansion of its movie market, and the Hong Kong film industry should make the best use of its own competitive edge to further explore this vast sector, believes Paco Wong Pak-ko.

Wong should know - he is a well-known manager credited with making famous a string of celebrities including the likes of Kelly Chen, Andy Hui and Miriam Yeung.

He is now the managing director of Sun Entertainment Culture Limited, the company that produced the smash hit action movie SPL II: A Time for Consequence.

"About a decade ago, the total box office of the Chinese mainland was only a few hundred million yuan per year. In 2014, the box office on the mainland was some 30 billion yuan," Wong told the China Daily.

Wong believes that the core strength of the Hong Kong film sector lies in action and gangster flicks, as city directors have a lot of experience in both. Also, these movies have been well received by audiences from both Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, and even adapted by heavyweight Hollywood directors.

"I think Hong Kong's action and gangster movies have been evolving over the years and they are deeply loved by the mainland audience," Wong said.

Many Hong Kong movies well received by mainland audiences were indeed action or gangster capers, from Once Upon A Time In China to Infernal Affairs until the most recent SPL II, which pulled in a box office total of 560 million yuan ($90.16 million), Xinhua reports.

Wong said Sun Entertainment Culture spent 120 million yuan to produce SPL II, but the box office collections show it was all worth it.

But Sun Entertainment Culture is not just all about producing movies, its diverse business includes managing singers and actors, organizing live concerts and even running two restaurants in Wan Chai.

But the company's priority is to expand its business in the movie industry, Wong said, as he believes the music industry is facing a difficult situation - as few people these days buy CDs, once the major revenue source for record companies.

"In the future, we want to find more good movies to invest in while producing more movies on our own," said Wong.

He said the company is constantly searching for good movies on the mainland, and usually invests 15 million yuan on romantic films and 40 million yuan on action flicks.

The criteria are quite simple, said Wong, explaining that the most important thing is the producer's distribution capability.

Lights, Camera, Action

When it comes to producing, Wong said he will stick to action movies, the area in which he has rich experience.

Wong has always had a keen eye for finding lead actors.

"To land a leading role in my movie, you will have to be a martial arts expert. Aside from that, you should either be very good looking or have a strong and special appeal."

Wong talked about Wu Jing, a Chinese mainland martial artist and one of the lead actors in SPL II. Wong said that he has known Wu for almost 10 years.

"I always knew he would be a big movie star someday, ever since I met him the first time. Wu has always worked very hard, he has a strong character. I know that Wu has played many roles as a military man in mainland TV series. The heroic roles he played really helped him portray his characters on screen," said Wong.

Wong also spoke about Zhang Jin, aka Max Zhang, a former wushu athlete and another lead actor in SPL II. Zhang has become very popular among the mainland audience thanks to his turn in SPL II.

"Mainland audiences didn't know Zhang Jin that well a few years ago, he used to be known just as the husband of the famous actress Ada Choi Siu-fun, but I knew he had potential," said Wong.

"Do you know that when Zhang won Best Supporting Actor at the 33rd Hong Kong Film Awards (in 2014) for his role in The Grandmaster, I was thrilled. I think I was much happier than even (The Grandmaster) director Wong Kar-wai, as by then I had already signed Zhang for SPL II."

Wong knows that many ambitious Hong Kong boys and girls harbor dreams of becoming a movie star or singer someday, but fulfilling that dream could be extremely difficult, he warns.

"Everyone is entitled to their dreams, but my advice to these Hong Kong young people who want to become stars is that don't waste too much time on it."

Besides having the "right look", people also need great opportunities to become a movie star or popular singer.

Wong said that girls with potential to be stars need to be very good looking, while for boys, though good looks are also important, he believes that the "right look" should be somewhere between tougher than Zhang Jin but softer than Wu Jing.

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