Reviewing 2015: Malaysian movies at the box office
Writer: Florey DM
Some of the highest-grossing local movies of 2015.
Action, comedy, romance, horror, thriller – these are the genres dominating the local box office this year, as evident by the ten movies that managed to land on our list of the top ten highest-grossing Malaysian movies of 2015 (as of November).
It was a good year for locally-produced movies when action movie "Polis Evo" went on to become the highest-grossing local movie of all time, even beating the record set by Chiu Keng Guan's "The Journey". It is a proud achievement for the local movie industry indeed, to be able to produce such interest- as well as profit-generating movies two years consecutively – or so it seems.
Delving deeper into the earnings of local movies for the past years, it comes to our attention that though these last two years have seen the immense success of two big movies (as mentioned above), there have also been a decrease of other movies of good quality. A glance at the current top thirty feature films of Malaysia will show that though the top two spots are patronised by recent movies, snuggled at third is a movie from four years ago, 2011's "KL Gangster" with a total gross of RM11.74 million.
No other movies from 2014 or 2015 are listed on it, save for the top two. Placing at the thirtieth place is 2008's "Duyung" with RM4.67 million. Using that as the benchmark for entry, only two movies ("KL Gangster 2", RM4.96 million; "Husin, Mon dan Jin Pakai Toncet", RM5.89 million) from 2013 managed to end up on the list by collecting more than that. This pales in comparison to the number of movies from 2010 to 2012 (ranging from four to ten per year) that have collected more than said amount. 2011 was the most successful year with ten movies placing on the list, with the lowest being "Bini-biniku Gangster", which collected RM4.72 million.
Looking back at 2015's local movies, there is a huge gap between the first-placer and second-placer. The first, of course, being "Polis Evo", and the second, "My Papa Rich". There is a difference of almost RM15 million between the two. It might be unfair to compare the latter to a record-breaking movie, so let's pitch it against movies with similar earnings. Unfortunately, our second highest-grossing movie this year lost to as many as three movies from last year ("Abang Long Fadil", RM4.61 million; "Ah Beng the Movie", RM4 million; "Huat Ah! Huat Ah! Huat!", RM3.6 million).
"The Journey" was the first local movie to surpass RM17 million.
This goes to show that despite the industry churning out more and more movies every year, the quality, however, only seems to be diminishing. There will be 80 local movies in total for this year, according to FINAS records. Last year, there was 81, which was ten more than 2013 movies. 2012 had 73, while 2011 had 42. Five years ago, the industry only produced a mere 29 number of titles. However, as small that amount may be, it was quite a pool of quality movies. Only four 2010 movies made it to the top 30 chart but those four earned collections within the RM5.6 million to RM8.5 million range. Compare those to this year's collections and one will easily see how diminutive the figures have become.
There's little to wonder then when FINAS recently moved to emphasise on quality over quantity once more. The abundance of movies in cinemas does not necessarily translate to more profitable collection. Therefore, starting next year, local filmmakers will have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they wish to continue contributing to the industry, as not only will the Compulsory Screening Scheme (Skim Wajib Tayang) be stricter, but licensing fee too will be increased in order to weed out inactive or unprofessional filmmakers. This will encourage only those who are serious in filmmaking to be involved in the industry, thereby lessening the number of unprofessionalism that currently mars it.
According to FINAS Director-General Datuk Kamil Othman, the problem now is that licenses are too easy to obtain to the point that most of the license-holders simply have them for the sake of it, without really educating themselves on the proper techniques and procedures needed in the industry, thus leaving the industry bogged down by such unprofessionalism. Then there's the fact that most movies, provided they do not go against the regulations set locally, are allowed to screen in cinemas for at least two weeks. This leads to the thinking of only making profits without really minding the quality of the end product.
Apart from these, it is important too for future filmmakers to pay attention to the trend. Based on past years' collections, it can be deduced that local audiences generally tend to lean towards comedy movies, action movies, horror movies, horror comedy and romantic drama. "The Journey" broke the mold as it is more of a family drama, but thanks to its beautiful cinematography, heartwarming storyline and perfect timing – it was released during Chinese New Year - it cracked the code and became the first movie to venture beyond the RM17 million box office collection.
It is more profitable for Chinese comedy movies (preferably Lunar New Year-themed) to be released during the month of January or February, when Lunar New Year is being celebrated, as that is when the movie-going crowd will flock the cinemas for such movies. This is evident by the number of such titles yearly that are able to collect more than RM3 million, at the very least.
The trend continues this year with an action movie taking the top spot while a Lunar New Year release takes second spot. Largely what makes up the top ten list of 2015 are the horror movies, followed by romance as well as action movies, and most of these have a dash of comedy mixed into them.
The Ghaz Abu Bakar-directed movie broke the record when it became the highest-grossing local movie of all time with its gross of RM17.4 million, beating previous record holder "The Journey" (2014) which collected RM 17.1 million. In comparison, the action movie managed to play for 60 days in cinemas, four days longer than the drama movie's 56 days.
One of the reasons why the movie was so successful may lie in the fact that it is significantly improved compared to its peers in terms of storytelling and cinematography. Moviegoers have remarked that they are satisfied that the stunts and action scenes do not have the poorly-generated look most local movies end up with due to restricted budget.
Coupled with the fact that the movie is led by two of the currently most prominent local actors, Shaheizy Sam and Zizan Razak, the acting in the movie definitely feels less wooden and the properly scripted dialogues help in ensuring that their conversations flow more naturally. In "Polis Evo", the duo plays two policemen with different personalities who have to work together in a mission to defeat a drug trafficking syndicate.
My Papa Rich
Earning RM3 million at the local box office after 22 days of screening, the mandarin comedy movie directed by Ryon Lee places second on the list. Again, the movie utilises the formula of releasing during the Lunar New Year to boost its chances of being watched by the movie-going crowd that are looking for something that matches the holiday's theme.
As per norm, this kind of comedy movies are usually jam-packed with familiar faces, "My Papa Rich" notably stars actor-director Jack Neo, actors Wang Lei and Teddy Chin as well as actress Mindee Ong, among others.
The movie also combines comedy with heartwarming drama about family, a proven recipe that works in attracting audiences. "My Papa Rich" tells of Yang, a widower who becomes a millionaire for a month after his friend Lin offered him the chance to become one.
Suamiku Encik Perfect 10
One of the preferred options for Malay romance movies is adapting a popular novel into a movie. Here's one example of this year's successful big-screen adaptation directed by Feroz Kader. It earned RM2.9 million after 33 days of showing in cinemas. The pull might have been the fact that it was adapted from a novel that already has a following of fans, who were highly anticipating the movie adaptation, or it could have been the stars as Lisa Surihani and Aaron Aziz are undeniably well-known across the country.
Another example of a successful adaptation is Ghaz Abu Bakar's "Suami Aku Ustaz", starring Nora Danish (who also stars in another 2015 movie by the name of "Suamiku Jatuh Dari Langit", though this did not fare as well since it wasn't an adaptation), which raked in RM836 thousand.
"Suamiku Encik Perfect 10" follows Aleeya Azmeen and Zariel Daniel who pretend to be a couple for a week, leading to many dramatic and hilarious situations.
If it's not romance, it's horror. This is one of the most profitable genres in the local movie industry. Superstitious or not, our society sure enjoys watching anything related to our local spooky stories. Maybe because it gives us thrills while watching it, because the subject matter is something close to home (non-Asian horror movies usually tend to scare Asians less than homegrown ones). "Villa Nabila" borrows the handheld shaky camera style of 1999 hit movie, "The Blair Witch Project", to both make the audiences feel disoriented enough as though they are part of the movie, and give a sense of illusion as though the movie is really a found footage of a real event. Syafiq Yusof directs Pekin Ibrahim in this movie based on the real stories that took place at an abandoned house in Johor called Villa Nabila. The movie made a collection of RM2.8 million.
Sometimes a franchise can be so enamouring that even a change of lead actor won't affect it much. True, "Cicakman 3" did collect less than its predecessors, earning the lowest in the franchise in fact with its RM2.5 million gross, but it doesn't differ much from the previous sequel "Cicakman 2: Planet Hitam" which also earned less than RM3 million. Only the first movie was able to make more than RM5 million. Yusry Abdul Halim and Ghaz Abu Bakar both worked together in this third instalment, where Zizan Razak replaces Saiful Apek as the superhero who is this time defending his title against a new hero in town called SuperBro.
Osman Ali is well-known for his "tear-jerker" director nickname, so of course his forte is romantic movies that wrench the audiences' hearts. Fahrin Ahmad, Izara Aishah, Remy Ishak, Neelofa and Keith Foo star in this movie about a pilot who opens a café and meets the woman of his dream there. Also a novel adaptation, "Pilot Café" collected RM 1.6 million. This proves that there is a market for romance novel to big screens adaptations, provided, as mentioned previously, the novels picked already have followings who are eager to watch the movie versions.
Headlined by some of the biggest names in the industry (Maya Karin, Bront Palarae, Cristina Suzanne Stockstill, Marsha Milan, Umie Aida), Osman Ali's horror thriller managed to collect RM1.4 million. Fans were looking forward to this as they were able to see Maya Karin really unleash her acting prowess as the titular character who practices black magic. This is also director Osman Ali's only second movie under the horror genre, hence why moviergoers would also watch this as it is something different from what the tear-jerker director (see above) usually has to offer.
The sequel to "Juvana" sees Faishal Ishak returning to direct. The second movie made a significantly low collection compared to the first movie. With a gross of only RM1.2 million, it collected less than half of its predecessor's RM2.8 million. It could be due to the fact that only some actors, such as Zahiril Adzim and Johan As'ari, who the audiences are already familiar with, reprised their roles. A sequel's performance could be hurt when some of its previous stars do not return and instead replaced by other actors. Akin to the high-grossing "KL Gangster" franchise, the movie revolves around gangsterism. This is also one of the popular themes for filmmakers though not all go on to make high collections.
Hantu Bungkus Ikat Tepi
Nora Danish seems to be a staple in horror movies, though this one is less serious than the one below. This Hashim Rejab movie only raked in RM996 thousand, but it manages to place ninth on 2015's top 10 list because there are not many movies that have surpassed the RM1 million mark this year. Though this horror comedy about four friends, who lost a body they meant to bury later, also stars the likes of Farid Kamil, Abam and Tauke Jambu, the storyline was not something audiences really responded to.
Barely making the list with RM862 thousand, "Gudang Kubur" manages to place tenth. Though some of the scenes in this movie are undeniably goosebumps-inducing (pictured: a wife lies with her dead husband), the story seems to stray too much, making it hard for audiences to grasp and thus losing their interest for repeat views. Eyra Rahman once again directs Nora Danish, this time paired with Faizal Hussein, in this movie about a couple who unknowingly bought a haunted factory.
Cinema Online, 23 December 2015