Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender

By Sheldon Hsiao-Peng Lu | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
Jackie Chan and the Cultural Dynamics of Global

Steve Fore

In early 1996, as Hong Kong's 1997 reversion to the control of Mainland China loomed ever closer, the precise mechanism and meaning of this transition remained maddeningly indistinct. Hong Kong citizens, political interests, and business entities still didn't know exactly how reversion to China would be manifested. Of course, the city had been living in this state of suspended animation since the signing of the Joint Declaration in 1984, but as the deadline approached, individuals, families, and corporations alike were furiously concocting contingency plans that ranged from maintaining the status quo to overnight evacuation.

For the Hong Kong movie industry, which boomed throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, this uncertainty had stabilizing effects both on the infrastructure of the business itself and on the tastes and interests of the local moviegoing audience. Movie attendance fell 30 percent between 1992 and late 1995;1 the number of films produced annually dropped from a steady 135-150 a few years ago to well under 100 in 1995 (and the critical consensus was that proportionately fewer "good" movies were being made); the local exhibition market, dominated since the late 1970s by homegrown product, increasingly was swamped by Hollywood films; and a number of prominent producers, directors, and performers acquired overseas passports, work permits, and even citizenship. Some of these people have remained in Hong Kong and are continuing to work for the time being, while others have either "retired" from the movie business, relocated regionally (to Singapore or Malaysia, for example), or, in a few instances, left Hong Kong to pursue success in that Holy Grail of global commercial media production, Hollywood.

The first highly publicized defection to the United States was that of the director John Woo (and his producer, Terence Chang), whose second U.S.produced film, Broken Arrow, was released in February 1996 and proved a moderate hit in the U.S. market, grossing in the vicinity of $70 million in first-run release. As of early 1996, two other well-known Hong Kong direc-

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