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Hong Kong Box Office Struggled to 25% Gain in 2023

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Hong Kong saw “A Guilty Conscience” become the highest-grossing film of all time at its local box office. But the wider cinema market in Hong Kong remained stuck far below pre-pandemic levels.

Data from Hong Kong Box Office Limited, a joint venture between Motion Picture Industry Association (MPIA) and the Hong Kong Theatres Association, showed annual cinema revenue of HK$1.43 billion ($184 million) in 2023.

That was a 25% improvement on 2022, when the industry was battered by on-off closures due to government COVID-control measures, and managed only HK$1.14 billion ($146 million). But the 2023 score also remained 25% shy of 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, when box office reached HK$1.92 billion ($246 million).

Hyper-local courtroom drama, “A Guilty Conscience” earned HK$115 million ($14.7 million), but it was the only local title to make it into the territory’s top ten chart in 2023. Next in line were “Oppenheimer” (HK$72.8 million), “Mission: Impossible -Dead Reckoning Part 1” (HK$60.5 million), “The Super Mario Brothers Movie (HK$52.5 million) and “Barbie” with HK$44.2 million. Japanese animation, “The First Slam Dunk,” which was a hit in other parts of Asia, ranked seventh in 2023 with HK$39.4 million.

“Fast X,” which was the top imported titled in the mainland China market, ranked only ninth in Hong Kong, with HK$29.8 million. There were no mainland Chinese films in the Hong Kong top ten, indicating a continued divergence of audience taste between the two places.

The organizations behind the data called the 2023 result “deeply unsatisfactory” and described the film production and cinema sectors as being in “poor condition.” It explained that audiences had favored overseas travel after the end of the pandemic restrictions over going to the cinema and other changes in consumer behavior.

It also pointed to problems within the film industry, including a poor choice of movies available to the public and the COVID-era production problems that fed through to a smaller number of available titles.

The total number of films released in the city in 2023 was 267, up from the 217 of 2022, but a way below the 329 of 2019. Both local production (46) and import titles (221) were down compared with the pre-pandemic era.

Among Hong Kong productions, “Time Still Turns the Pages” earned HK$23.5 million; “Over My Dead Body” earned HK$22.7 million; “In Broad Daylight” earned HK$21.1 million; “Everything Under Control” earned HK$16.2 million; “The White Storm 3 Heaven or Hell” earned HK$14.0 million; “Don’t Call Me God of Gamblers” earned HK$13.0 million; “Mad Fate” earned HK$11.7 million; “Where the Wind Blows” earned HK$11.3 million; and “It Remains” earned HK$10.3 million.

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