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Vietnamese films suffer ‘profitless summer’: box office report

Saturday, September 28, 2019, 19:00 GMT+7
Vietnamese films suffer ‘profitless summer’: box office report
A collage of posters of Vietnamese movies released in summer 2019.

All Vietnamese films that hit cinemas this summer were profitless at the box office despite high hopes, according to a report.

Thirteen Vietnamese movies premiered domestically between May and August 2019, according to a report compiled by Box Office Vietnam (BOVN), a website that tracks box office revenue in the Southeast Asian country.

While these Vietnamese movies accounted for nearly 20 percent of all new films released during the period, they raked in only VND68.7 billion (US$2.96 million) in ticket sales revenue, less than five percent of the total revenue of all summer flicks, BOVN pointed out.

Comedy drama Anh thay ngoi sao (Superstar Teacher) was the highest-grossing Vietnamese movie in summer 2019 with over VND23 billion ($991,000) in ticket sales.

A scene from Vietnamese movie 'Anh thay ngoi sao' (Superstar Teacher), which was released in August 2019.
A scene from Vietnamese movie 'Anh thay ngoi sao' (Superstar Teacher), which was released in August 2019.

In comparison, action blockbuster Hai Phuong (Furie) - the highest-grossing Vietnamese film so far this year - grossed more than VND200 billion (US$8.68 million) just one month since its premiere on February 22.

Meanwhile, Nhung canh en dau tien (The First Swallows) - a 50-minute documentary about the first air battle of the Vietnam Air Force - grossed a meagle VND220 million ($9,500) at the box office, the lowest among Vietnamese films released this summer, according to BOVN.

A scene from Vietnamese movie 'Thua me con di' (Goodbye Mother), which was released in August 2019.
A scene from Vietnamese movie 'Thua me con di' (Goodbye Mother), which was released in August 2019.

“As of 2019, the minimum cost of producing a feature film falls somewhere between VND8-10 billion [$345,000-431,000], with exceptions for indie movies which typically cost less,” BOVN asserts in its report.

“When accounted for such additional costs as marketing and cinemas’ revenue split, a film needs to gross at least VND20 billion [$862,000] to be profitable,” the site continued.

With Anh thay ngoi sao being Vietnam’s best hope at the summer box office , its lukewarm reception and underwhelming ticket sales meant other Vietnamese movies stood little chance of reaping any profit.

This was a stark contrast to the first quarter of 2019, when a series of Vietnamese blockbusters hit cinemas and won big, with Hai Phuong and Cua lai vo bau, both released in February, claiming the two top spots in the list of all-time highest grossing Vietnamese movies.

A scene from Vietnamese movie 'Hai Phuong' (Furie), which was released in February 2019.
A scene from Vietnamese movie 'Hai Phuong' (Furie), which was released in February 2019.

“It appears film producers in Vietnam intentionally avoid releasing their movies in the summer, when Hollywood blockbusters often rule at the box office,” said Nguyen Khanh Duong, founder of Box Office Vietnam.

Unlike some of its Asian neighbors that set a limit on the number of foreign movies approved for commercial screening domestically each year, Vietnamese cinemas remain fully open to foreign flicks.

“For some, it’s better bend than break,” Duong said.

As of August, the three top grossing Hollywood blockbusters in Vietnam of 2019 were Avengers: Endgame ($12.3 million), Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw ($6.5 million), and Spider-Man: Far From Home ($4.8 million), with the last two hitting cinemas in summer.

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