Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Five Star opens its vaults

One of Thailand's oldest film studios, Five Star Production, has started a new DVD line, Five Star Remastered, under which it is reissuing its older films. The Nation business daily has a story about it today in its print editions. (I can't seem to find the story on The Nation's website.)

English subtitles likely will not be offered on these DVDs and VCDs, but the quality of the films will be pristine, says Five Star executive director Aphiradee "Amy" Iamphungphorn.

The first issue is Boonchu (บุญชู orBoonchoo), the start of an eight-film teen romantic comedy series directed by Bhandit Rittakol in the 1980s and early '90s. The Boonchu DVD went on sale over the weekend, and 2,000 copies have already been sold even though the disc has not been distributed in all shops, according to The Nation. Rentals will start next month. Also, pre-orders are being taken for a box set of the existing films in the Boonchu series through Five Star's Thai Movies Wiki.

By next month, Boonchu 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8 will be ready for sale, Amy says. Boonchu 3 and 4 seem to be missing in action from the six-disc box set.

Five Star has a back catalog of around 250 films, stretching back to the 1970s, when the company was founded. It plans to issue 20 of them in the Five Star Remastered line.

Here is more from The Nation article:

To remaster the movies, Aphiradee said the company had hired two companies – Kantana and The Post – to remove all flaws in the old films and record a perfect version in digital format for further recording onto DVD and VCD copies. The two companies started the process two years ago.

Aphiradee said the new business plan created added value for all its films and helped the company once again make money from the old movies after they have been sitting quietly for a very long time.

“We know that these old movies have their fans. We have already seen the high demand with the first movie that we started selling last Saturday. Buyers were people of various ages, from grandmothers to working people,” Aphiradee said.

The company has a special department to run the new business. Aphiradee said the sales should account for 20 per cent of Five Star’s revenue this year, which would be 500 million baht.

Five Star’s core business is producing Thai movies for show in local theatres and for further sales to international broadcast operators. This year it has allocated Bt300 million to produce movies.

She estimated the whole Thai movie industry this year would not see obvious growth from last year due to the current economic uncertainty.

Five Star is mining more nostalgia with Red Eagle, a 1950s and '60s action film series that starred Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowarat. Tears of the Black Tiger director Wisit Sasanatieng, a devotee of the old Thai films, is directing a reboot of the series, with Ananda Everingham cast in the lead. If the first film does well, it will be continued with a second part already written by Wisit.

Five Star is also behind the hit Art of the Devil series, with the third film still raking in receipts in local cinemas. I'm too scared to go see it.

Meanwhile, the veteran director Bhandit is at work on Boonchu 9, which reunites the classic screen couple of Santisuk Promsiri and Jintara Sukapat. Apinya "Saiparn" Sakuljaroensuk from Ploy will be featured in the new film, due to open sometime this August. Apinya, by the way, has had her hair straightened back out since her appearance as the Afro-haired title character in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Ploy (a Five Star production). She appears in rival studio GTH's horror anthology, 4bia, which opens tomorrow.


  1. Pity about the lack of English subs... why is that so? :(

  2. Subtitled Thai films were rare before the late 1990s, except for the handful of filmmakers who actively pursued film festival screenings, like Cherd Songsri, Ratana Pestonji or Euthana Mukdasanit. In Bangkok cinemas, Thai films generally didn't have subtitles until the late '90s or early 2000s, I've recently been told by an old Thai hand.

    So Boonchu apparently never had subtitles written.

    I lament the lack of subtitles on these old DVD releases, but if Five Star is happy with their DVD sales, then it's hard to argue with them.

    I'm holding out a slim hope that future releases will have subtitles, or if a really important landmark film comes along, maybe a foreign distributor (Criterion Collection where are you?) will license the digital master.

    Five Star has had pretty good luck with selling its films to Innoform -- so there's another possibility that they might pursue.

  3. This is great news. Especially since it sounds like they've actually put some effort into the remastering and digitization.

    "Remaster" is often used as a marketing buzzword even back in the States, but it seems it can be particularly meaningless here. I've bought a few of Prince Chatrichalerm's old films that Mangpong has released, and despite bold claims on the cover of "ฉบับ Re-Master สมบูรณ์แบบทั้งภาพและเสียง ("Remastered version--perfect picture and sound!"), the quality is still poor. In addition to picture and sound deficiencies, I noticed the aspect ratio has been altered (2.39:1 squished to 1.85:1, if I recall correctly) and couched between fixed black bars, giving a fullscreen effect anyway.

    I'm hopeful, anyway. With any luck these claims of quality will turn out to be more accurate than that website of theirs, ThaiMoviesWiki (tagline "Thai Movies Encyclopedia"), which is neither a wiki, nor does it have any encyclopedic content!

  4. Boonchu 3 & 4 aren't in the set because they were never made! I've just been informed that the six-film series intentionally skipped parts 3 and 4 as a gimmick.


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