Highs and lows of Vietnamese 2019’s cinema

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Both movie goers and filmmakers rejoiced as 2019 marked the year when Vietnamese films’ revenue is expected to surpass VND1,000 billion (US$43 million) for the first time ever. Nevertheless, the many cinema’s record breakers do not negate some of the bigger flops of this year.

Furie - Vietnam’s highest-grossing box office hit of all time

Furie - Vietnam’s highest-grossing box office hit of all time

In early January, Chi Tro Ly Cua Anh (My Female Partner) grossed over VND70 billion (about US$3 million), featuring female singer My Tam as the main actress, director and screen writer. Cua Lai Vo Bau (Win My Baby Back) also took the title of highest-grossing film shown in Vietnamese theaters at VND191.8 billion (about US$8.3 million) as of 2019.

The year continued strong as domestic films see more revenue than foreign ones. Some notable contenders include Trang Quynh with a total of VND100 billion (US$4.3 million), and the horror-spiritual movie trio Bac Kim Thang (Home Sweet Home), That Son Tam Linh (Kumanthong) and Phap Su Mu (The Blind Shaman) picking up VND50 billion each (about US$2.2 billion) across their two-week opening.

Most remarkably, 2019 saw the debut of Hai Phuong (Furie), the highest grossing Vietnamese film of all time with over VND200 billion (about US$8.6 billion) in ticket sales in both domestic and foreign theaters. The film also appeared on Netflix after only 3 months of release.

Within the last two months of the year, Anh Trai Yeu Quai (Dear Devil Brother), Chi Chi Em Em (Sisters) and especially Mat Biec (Dreamy Eyes) have ended 2019 on a high note. Dreamy Eyes fulfilled everyone’s expectations as the domestic movie with the highest ticket sales within its three-day debut at VND50 billion (about US$2.2 billion).

Moreover, many impressive indie films debuted in 2019, including Troi Sang Roi Ta Ngu Di Thoi (Good Morning And Good Night), Thua Me Con Di (Goodbye Mother), and Thang 5 De Danh (Sunset Promise).

Despite such big wins, about 2/3 of the 40 Vietnamese films in 2019 were considered box office bombs, lots of them due to poor screen writing or acting like Yolo: You Only Live Once or Tinh Dau Tho Ngay (Pure Love).

A six-month crisis hit Vietnamese cinema like never before when movies from renowned directors like Nguyen Quang Dung (with Uoc Hen Mua Thu-Autumn Promise) or Do Duc Thinh (with Anh Thay Ngoi Sao-Superstar Teacher) still flopped.

Even films which were considered experimental in terms of motif and methods could not gain audience’s attention, such as Cau Chu Ma Ca Rong (The Vampire’s Handmaid) or Vo Gian Dao 2019, a remake of the Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs.

By Van Tuan - Translated by Tan Nghia

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