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Film fans in Asia want light fun and make Oscars wait

TAIPEI--Lights, camera, laughs.

Tens of millions of film fanatics are entering theaters around Asia during the long Lunar New Year holiday, but Hollywood can't count on them to boost the box office for its mostly serious Oscar nominees. Even with the Academy Awards buzz at a peak barely two weeks before the ceremony, patrons are opting for lighter fare.

“Viewers are mostly drawn to action films, films with special effects, comedies or easy-to-follow 'popcorn' movies,” said Ross Lee, a manager with Vieshow Cinemas, which owns one of Taiwan's largest theater chains. “In Taiwan the big hits are traditionally disaster films like '2012.'”

Lee and others say that with Chinese movie-goers using the New Year holiday to escape their daily grinds, they generally give the cold shoulder to weightier movies, like this year's leading nominee “Lincoln” or last year's best picture “The Artist.”

“'Lincoln' is an American film,” said Hong Kong film fan Leo Wong, 31. “I think Americans will probably be more interested. I don't really understand the history. And it's too serious.”

Reflecting Wong's critique, Hong Kong's film industry goes out of its way to pander to the local preference for lighter New Year's selections, turning out a subgenre of films specifically designed with holiday tastes in mind.

This year's Hong Kong holiday crop includes “Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons,” a prequel to the classic Chinese fable, and “I Love Hong Kong 2013,” a super-light comedy with an all-star cast and a crowd-pleasing happy ending.

Explaining her preference for watching locally produced comedies, Hong Kong movie-goer Christine Lam said it reinforced the spirit of the season.

“You want to do this on Chinese New Year,” she said, “to watch Chinese movies instead of Western ones because it gives you the vibe.”

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In this Feb. 7 photo, movie goers head to a popular theater complex as the Chinese New Year nears in Taipei, Taiwan. Tens of millions of film fanatics have entered theaters around Asia during the long Lunar New Year holiday, but Hollywood can't count on them to boost the box office for its mostly serious Oscar nominees.

(AP)

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