The biggest Thai movie of the summer release season so far has been Saranair Haao Peng (สาระแนห้าวเป้ง), which recently celebrated earning 50 million baht in its first week of release.
The "comedy documentary" is based on a 11-year-old TV reality series that stars Willy (or is it Willie?) McIntosh, "Ple" Nakorn Silachai and "Sena Hoi" Kiattisak Udomnak.
In the movie, a pair of young comedians are challenged by the three TV stars to pull Punk'd-style pranks on some of Thailand's biggest entertainment figures, including popular comedians Mum Jokmok and Kotee Aramboy as well as songs-for-life legend Ad Carabao and the South Korean girl group Baby V.O.X. Re.V.
Saranair Haao Peng was released on April 30, and earned 50 million in its first week, apparently topping even Wolverine, which came out on April 29.
There's no central authority that tracks box-office figures in Thailand. The only website that tracks the take for Thailand is Box Office Mojo, which compiles statistics supplied to it by the studios and distributors. It hasn't been updated since the second weekend of April.
The fallback is Thailand's biggest theater chain, Major Cineplex, which has a ranking of the films in its cinemas but doesn't offer any revenue figures nor does it state the number of screens.
The current chart, which covers films released on May 7, is topped by Star Trek (สตาร์ เท รค สงคราม พิฆาต จักรวาล, Sadaa Tay Rok Songkram Pikaat Jakrawan, or roughly "Star Trek: The Battle to Destroy the Universe"). It's a triumph for the Trek franchise, which isn't really that well known in Thailand.
At No 2 at Major Cineplex is the Dennis Quaid-Zhang Ziyi serial-killer thriller The Horsemen, which is seemingly getting a wider release in Thailand than it received in the U.S.
Saranair Haao Peng, produced by Willy, Hoi and Ple's Lucks Film and distributed by Sahamongkol, is in third place in its second weekend.
X Men Origins: Wolverine is in fourth, and RS Film's teen romance Mor 3 Pee 4 Rao Rak Naa (ม. 3 ปี 4 เรารักนาย), released head-to-head with Saranair Haao Peng, is at No. 5.
The Bangkok Post caught up with Hoi after the plait-haired comedian had a long night of celebrating his good fortune (cache):
"I am in shock that we beat foreign blockbusters. We didn't know how the movie would be received at all. Our aim from the get-go was to please the masses, but it is still a surprise to see this kind of response. I'm very proud and very happy for the Thai movie industry. I think it's a good indication that Thai movies can still make it," he said.
For a movie he fathered, Hoi spent a minimal amount of time watching it during post-production. He was so nervous that he only viewed the first cut, and never looked back again until the press screening on April 30. The reception was overwhelming.
"Ever since [the press screening], I've been back to watch it in different cinemas at least once a day. I want to see if people are really laughing and the film is really funny. I am happy to report that they do laugh and the tickets have sold well, so 50 million isn't just some made up number!"
In the lengthy profile, Hoi denies that Mum Jokmok's being angry at being pranked and saying his life was endangered was a publicity stunt, saying that because of the controversy the film's "sponsors put deals on hold".
And BK magazine has an interview with Ple, which says the stunt "nearly landed him in court".
The controversy was resolved when Willy, Hoi and Ple offered a public apology to Mum.
And, a 50-million-baht box-office haul will also help smooth things over for another likely big-screen installment of the series.
(Photo of Hoi, Willy and Ple via Kapook)