Tue, Sep 14, 2010
my paper
No big stars? No sweat as home-grown movies roll in the dough

By Christina Ng

WITHOUT big names and big budgets, two very different home-grown films are breaking new ground and filling up seats by appealing to eclectic Singapore tastes.

Boo Junfeng's debut feature film Sandcastle, which is showing in only one hall at Golden Village (GV) VivoCity, has made $46,720 within 18 days since opening on Aug 26.

That figure trumps Eric Khoo's 2008 film My Magic, which made $29,500 in its six-week run that year.

According to a GV spokesman, the arthouse movie will play for just one or two weeks more because another film - I Am Love, an Italian film starring Tilda Swinton - is scheduled to open there on Sept 30.

Still, the spokesman said that Sandcastle is doing well, especially "considering the fact that this is Boo's first feature film".

The other home-grown movie making waves in cinemas is the mainstream horror flick, Haunted Changi.

The film, made by Singapore- based American film-maker Tony Kern, debuted on Sept 2. As of Sunday, it's raked in $484,320.

That amount is comparable to the $400,000 that the 2005 Singapore horror film The Maid raked in within its first six days of sneak previews.

It eventually earned $2.5 million at the box office.

Mr David Glass, managing director of GV, said: "Horror titles like Haunted Changi...do extraordinarily well in the cinemas.

Local movie-goers have also been really supportive of local content in recent years."

The success of Haunted Changi - a Blair Witch Project-styled movie filmed in Singapore's Old Changi Hospital - can be attributed to strong word-of-mouth recommendations, as well as clever marketing gimmicks.

Online promos on social-networking portals played a big part in getting the word out for the movie, said GV's spokesman.

Comparatively, The Maid, made by home-grown director Kelvin Tong, had a much larger marketing budget, said the GV spokesman.

The figures that Haunted Changi - which opened in 19 cinemas - has raked in, given its marketing budget, are encouraging, she said.

The movie also debuted at the No. 2 slot at the Singapore box office. It beat Hollywood comedy Grown Ups and action film The Expendables to that spot.

And Sandcastle - a sentimental piece about a teenage boy (played by first-time actor Joshua Tan) and his family's murky history, as well as his coming of age - has won praise from critics.

my paper film critic Yong Shu Hoong said that the film struck the right chord with local audiences.

He added that he rates Sandcastle a little higher than Eric Khoo's first feature, Meepok Man (1995), which he felt was more awkward stylistically as compared to Boo's natural style.

Boo, who is presently in Toronto to attend the 35th Toronto International Film Festival where Sandcastle is making its North American premiere, responded to the box-office success with joy.

He told my paper: "I'm very happy that the film has found a discerning audience in Singapore. It has benefited a lot from the good reviews and positive word of mouth."

He added: "I hope this demonstrates that there's a growing number of people who appreciate such films, and inspires faith in the industry to move away from the tried-and-tested formulas that define commercial filmmaking in Singapore."

Freelance film director Yuan Ler, 29, who watched Sandcastle 11/2 weeks ago, said that the film is "not so artistic that it alienates the average movie-goer".

He added: "The heart of the film is in the right place."

The one piece of not-so-good news for Singapore cinema is that Love Cuts, the other home-grown film out now, isn't shining at the box office.

The film, starring Zoe Tay and Hong Kong's Kenny Ho, has made just $90,000 as of Sunday. The movie - which opened in 16 cinemas - made its debut last Thursday.



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