Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pee Mak reaches No. 1

According to a story in The Nation today, the horror-comedy Pee Mak Phra Khanong has earned 556 million baht, surpassing the previous Thai box-office record holder, MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's 2001 royal epic Suriyothai.

The new record can be attributed to increases in ticket prices over the years – nearly double since 2001 – as well as the opening of more and more mall multiplexes across the Kingdom. What's surprising is that a mega-hit to beat Suriyothai didn't happen sooner.

Opening on March 28, GTH's monster is still in cinemas. As a "thank you" to fans, the studio has a promotion going until tomorrow, offering discounted tickets for 80 baht – see it again, and give them even more money!

It was No. 1 at the Thai box office for five consecutive weeks before dropping to No. 2 over the weekend of May 2-5, being bumped from the week-on-week top spot by Iron Man 3, which is holding on even after this past weekend's release of Star Trek Into Darkness.

Pee Mak should easily be the No. 1 movie of the year in Thailand, having clobbered other Thai releases, such as studio M-Thirtynine's weepy World War II romance Khoo Kam and Chookiat Sakveerakul's teenage coming-of-age comedy Grean Fictions, as well as the Hollywood blockbuster G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

Meanwhile, The Nation's story today deals with the idiotic rumor that Pee Mak is "banned in China". The nonsense is thanks to lamentations circulated on a Thai website by Pee Mak leading man Mario Maurer, who expressed his dire wishes that the movie would get released on the Mainland.

However, according to director Banjong Pisanthanakun, Pee Mak isn't banned in China, officially anyway, because no deals have been made with distributors there, though interest has been shown. Nonetheless, it's doubtful Pee Mak will ever screen in China, thanks to prohibitions against the "ghost movies" and the "third sex" that are staples of the Thai film industry.

Plus, there's the strict quota that only allows a handful of foreign films each year. Thai officials are lobbying for China to bend the rules to allow more films from other Asian countries. But as long as Iron Man is powered by a Chinese milk drink, it's going to be tough for other countries to compete with Hollywood for a toehold in China.

Oh well, at least there's Hong Kong, where Pee Mak opens this week, followed by Cambodia next week, Malaysia on June 6, Singapore on June 13 and Taiwan on August 9.

With Pee Mak topping the box office and being so phenomenonally successful, the pressure is on. Other Thai studios are surely taking stock of the productions on their books, and looking for ways to compete with GTH's slick marketing machine.

And even other GTH directors are feeling the pressure, among them Sophon "Jim" Sakdaphisit, who is tasked with coming up with the studio's next big hit this year. Now, he's no slouch, having written and directed the 2011 No. 1 movie Laddaland as well as having a hand in writing the international hit horrors Shutter and Alone. But rather than deal with the scrutiny, Sophon has dropped off the grid, according to a recent Soopsip column in The Nation. He will likely re-emerge once the stretchy-armed shadow of Pee Mak has retreated a bit.

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