In terms of box office returns, the Lunar New Year holiday is the biggest period of the year for the Hong Kong film industry. It has become a tradition to head to the movies, preferably to see a loud, over-the-top, sometimes stupid comedy, and cinema attendance numbers can be triple, even quadruple a normal week's takings.
This year pitted two Lunar New Year comedies up against each other - the latest instalment in the All's Well, Ends Well franchise, and 72 Tenants of Prosperity (72家租客). It was the latter, helped by an all-star cast and blanket advertising on TVB (one of the film's producers), which emerged as the box office champion. In the four-day period from February 13 (Lunar New Year's Eve) to February 16 it grossed HK$9.85 million (US$1.27 million), well ahead of All's Well, Ends Well Too 2010 (HK$6.57 million). It's four-day weekend figures are in fact the highest for a local film since Stephen Chow's C7 two years ago (also on a Lunar New Year weekend). 72 Tenants also had the honour of finally ending Avatar's 8 week reign as the top grossing film. (Box office figures are taken from the excellent Box Office Mojo website).
72 Tenants of Prosperity is loosely based on a fondly-remembered box office hit from almost 40 years ago, The House of 72 Tenants. It's co-directed by the versatile Eric Tsang (曾志伟, pinyin: Zēng Zhìwěi) - TV host, stand-up comedian, producer, ex-football player and stuntman, and star of numerous movies where he is equally as comfortable in violent gangster films as he is in comedies. Tsang also takes one of the central roles in 72 Tenants of Prosperity alongside singing/acting superstar Jacky Cheung (张学友, pinyin: Zhāng Xúeyǒu), Anita Yuen (袁咏仪, pinyin: Yuán Yǒngyí) as their love interest. The supporting cast is almost a who's who of Hong Kong entertainment - 174 stars according to the publicity - with TVB's stable of contracted talent especially prominent.
All's Well, Ends Well Too 2010 (花田囍事2010), to give it its full and unwieldly title, is the fifth in a series of All's Well, Ends Well movies, the first released almost 20 years ago in 1992. All five of them have been released to cash in on the Lunar New Year season. Despite not always finding favour with critics all have been profitable money-spinners for their makers. The latest stars Louis Koo and Sandra Ng and several other well-known faces from the Hong Kong entertainment scene.