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July 30, 2009

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Hong Kong film hopes to crack mainland

"INFERNAL Affairs" co-director Alan Mak hopes his new thriller will break new ground for Hong Kong filmmakers still learning the tastes of viewers on Chinese mainland.

Directors in this vibrant movie industry - which produced Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan - are increasingly under pressure to cater to the mainland market, but they sometimes struggle to find the pulse of mainland moviegoers because Hong Kong tastes tend to be more Westernized.

The urban action thrillers that Hong Kong filmmakers are known for have not been big hits on the mainland, which is often dominated by big-budget historical and kung fu epics.

Hong Kong director John Woo found success on the mainland with two-part historical epic "Red Cliff," which was one of the biggest hits in China in the past year.

Mak, whose "Infernal Affairs" was remade by Martin Scorsese as "The Departed," hopes his new film, "Overheard," will break the trend. The HK$35 million (US$4.5 million) production follows three Hong Kong police officers who stumble upon an insider trading plot during an eavesdropping operation.

"If this movie does well on the mainland, then it sends us a message that we can make more movies like this," the 44-year-old director said at the Hong Kong premiere for "Overheard" late Tuesday.

So far the signs are encouraging. "Overheard," which opened on the mainland last Friday, made more than 35 million yuan (US$5 million) in its opening weekend and is expected to easily break the 100 million yuan mark - the threshold for a big hit on the mainland, said Yu Dong, chairman of investor Bona Entertainment.

But that's still a long way from the 300 million yuan earned by each of the two installments of "Red Cliff."


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