Hong Kong's moribund Category III erotic film genre has been revived with the much-publicised release of 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy (肉蒲团之极乐宝鑑). The film, released on 14 April, has broken box office records in both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Billed as the world's first "IMAX 3-D erotic film" - the honour of being the world's first 3-D erotic film was taken last year by a Korean film - 3D Sex and Zen packed out cinemas despite admittance being restricted to 18 year olds and over.
On its opening day in Hong Kong, the novelty of viewing soft-core porn in 3D attracted box office takings of HK$2.78 million (US$357,000). This made it the most successful debut of a 3-D film in Hong Kong, beating Hollywood blockbuster Avatar's first-day takings of HK$2.5 million. It was also by a large margin the highest opening day earnings of a Category III film, way ahead of the previous best of HK$1.2 million grossed by Ang Lee's spy thriller Lust, Caution.
By the end of the weekend, 3D Sex and Zen had gone on to gross HK$13 million (US$1.7 million), another record for a four-day opening period. It still has a long way to go to top Avatar's final box office grossings of HK$180 million - the most successful box office takings of all time in Hong Kong. The highest grossing Category III film is Lust, Caution which eventually took in HK$40 million - a target that looks achievable for 3D Sex and Zen considering the profitable Easter and May Day holiday periods are coming up. The producers are also expecting a large influx of mainland tourists to visit Hong Kong specifically to catch the movie - not surprisingly, it won't be getting a showing on the mainland.
3D Sex and Zen was also the box office champ in Taiwan last weekend, earning an estimated NT$15 million (US$515,000) for its first three days.
The film is a remake of a 1991 film that, until Lust, Caution, was the biggest grossing Category III in Hong Kong. Both movies are loosely based on a 17th century Chinese erotic novel, the Carnal Prayer Mat.