Ah boys' appeal

But the attention was being showered on local young movie stars Joshua Tan, Tosh Zhang, Maxi Lim, Wang Weiliang, Noah Yap, Ridhwan Azman and Aizuddiin Nasser.

Aged 19 to 25, they shot to stardom in director Jack Neo's hugely successful Ah Boys To Men two-part film.

The films, about a group of young recruits going through national service, have marched their way to become Singapore's highest-grossing local films of all time.

It took just 19 days for Ah Boys To Men 2, which is still showing in cinemas, to break the record held by predecessor Ah Boys To Men. As of Thursday, the second movie has taken in $6.446 million in takings, surpassing the first movie's $6.213 million.

This is no easy feat, considering the previous local box-office record was held by Money No Enough (1998) for 14 years.

So just what is the magic formula behind Ah Boys' massive popularity? Fans and film industry players say that a huge factor is that the films are centred on the hot topic of national service.

Traditionally, national service-related programmes have been warmly received here.

Familiar favourite Army Daze, originally written as a book in 1985 by Michael Chiang, was adapted into a hit stage play two years later that had a sold-out run of nine performances.

It was re-staged again just a month later, then again in 1990, 2006 and last year to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

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