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John Lui
Friday, Jun 27, 2014

Showbiz

Machines rule box office

The Straits Times | John Lui | Friday, Jun 27, 2014

From Pacific Rim, Real Steel and the Transformers franchise, we know that Americans and Europeans like movies with big robots whacking the daylights out of one another.

But here in Asia, we really, really like these large mechanical men with violent tendencies, whether they are sentient or piloted by humans.

In Singapore, trailers and promos for Transformers: Age Of Extinction have blanketed MRT stations and TV screens, as things gear up for a repeat of 2011.

That was the year Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, the third instalment, took over an unprecedented 126 screens on the island, rising to become the year's top-grossing movie here with earnings of more than $11 million. The others in the top 3 - Kung Fu Panda 2 and the final film in the Harry Potter series (Deathly Hallows Part 2) - trailed it by millions of dollars.

Even more cinemas here are expected to screen the new instalment this week.

And the other film distributors know it will be folly to challenge the franchise's supremacy, so none of them are releasing a major movie until next week.

In China, Transformers: Age Of Extinction is expected to be the most lucrative film of all time in the country. Industry paper The Hollywood Reporter estimates that the science-fiction action flick will pull in 1.5 billion yuan (S$299 million), beating the previous record of $277 million held by Avatar (2009).

These spectacular numbers are based on 2011's Transformers: Dark Of The Moon sales figures, and how there are now twice as many (about 20,000) screens in China as there were when it was released.

The huge box-office potential is why, says the report, the big machines will get to destroy a few famous Hong Kong landmarks.

It also explains the casting of Chinese actress Li Bingbing and pop idol Han Geng. American stars Mark Wahlberg and Nicola Peltz went so far as to shoot Internet videos wishing students good luck during their college entrance examinations.

Why are Asians gaga over giant metal men? Perhaps it is because the entire warring robot sub-genre of sciencefiction has its roots in Asia, and in Japan in particular.

In Japan, the genre came into its own in the 1950s, when the terms Super Robot or Real Robots became accepted terms.

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