Vietnamese movies fail to compete at box office with imports

By Dang Khoa   August 2, 2022 | 04:14 am PT
Vietnamese movies fail to compete at box office with imports
A promotional for 'Minions: The Rise of Gru'. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures Vietnam
Foreign films are sweeping the box office while Vietnamese films are doing badly, with most of them losing money.

Universal Pictures' 'Minions: The Rise of Gru' had pocketed over VND178 billion (US$7.6 million) in the Vietnamese market as of July 26.

It had set a box office record as the first animated film to surpass the VND100 billion mark within 10 days of its release on July 1, and has since become the highest-grossing animated film ever.

Last week it became the fifth highest-grossing foreign film of all time, but its popularity has not shown any signs of cooling down with screenings across the country continuing to sell out.

Many other foreign films have also raked in money.

Marvel's 'Thor: Love and Thunder', released on July 7, earned nearly VND114 billion while the Japanese animated film 'Detective Conan: The Bride of Halloween' drew huge crowds and earned VND30 billion in ticket sales on its first day of release on July 22.

Animated film 'Doraemon: Nobita's Little Star Wars' (VND49 billion) and action film 'Top Gun: Maverick' (VND28 billion) have also done well at the box office.

On the other hand, Vietnam-Thailand coproduction, the rom-com 'La May Tren Bau Troi Ai Do' (Side Seeing), has only earned VND431 million since its release on July 22.

Romance 'Em và Trinh', a biopic on Trinh Cong Son (1939-2001), one of Vietnam’s greatest ever musicians, only collected VND97.1 billion after hitting theaters on June 10 though many screened it at favorable time slots. The film reportedly cost VND50 billion to make.

Many other Vietnamese films did not even recoup their cost.

Actress Ly Nha Ky's film 'Nguoi Thu Ba' (The Third Person) earned a mere VND1 billion though it reportedly cost VND33 billion to make.

The action film '578: The Madman's Gun Shot' cost more than VND60 billion to make but earned only VND3.5 billion after more than 15 days. Due to its failure to attract audiences, many cinemas cut its screening time.

'Nguoi Lang Nghe: Loi Thi Tham' (Listeners: The Whispering), which won three awards at the Asian Film Festival and was released in theaters in early March, was only shown for a little more than a week and earned just VND2.2 billion.

The collection figures are based on independent statistics from Box office Vietnam.

It is clear that audiences are not rejecting movies but are merely indifferent to Vietnamese offerings.

The film market has gradually recovered since the Lunar New Year holidays after the forced hiatus due to Covid. Dozens of films have been released but many Vietnamese films have racked up huge losses and only a handful made money.

Why are Vietnamese movies failing?

Aficionados opine that in Vietnamese movies characters' backgrounds are not fully explained, leaving viewers with gaps and questions. In online reviews on film forums, some point out that the plot and content are bland or the acting is too artificial and "does not touch viewers’ hearts."

Bich Lien, a film producer and owner of Mega GS cinema, told the media that Vietnamese films' are faring poorly because they lack quality. After seeing too many bad movies, audiences distrust them and do not choose to watch them any more, she said.

Hoang Quan of ProductionQ's studio said the cost of making films is increasing due to increased salaries and equipment and post-production costs.

So while a big budget film is not always a good film, making a good film needs a lot of money, he said, adding that a typical commercial film now costs more than VND20 billion to make.

Many insiders said making a profit or even breaking even has become difficult for Vietnamese films for a variety of reasons.

A still from Side Seeing. Photo courtesy of Galaxy Cinema

A still from 'Side Seeing'. Photo courtesy of Galaxy Cinema

For example, audiences' entertainment needs could have changed during the epidemic and they do not go to theaters much because there are other things to entertain them online like TikTok, YouTube and other platforms where they can watch content on demand, they pointed out.

Film director and producer Charlie Nguyen said a film owes its box office success to many factors such as quality, release time, marketing, and viewers' taste, but it mostly boils down to having a quality storyline that moves the audience.

Director Luk Van said filmmakers must prioritize quality because only that could persuade audiences to watch their films.

Failure to do so could gradually cause them audiences to turn away completely from Vietnamese films, she warned.

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