HONG KONG—The opening day numbers for Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy were titanic, but don’t tell James Cameron. According to the BBC, the sexually explicit Cantonese production, which the world’s media has consistently mislabeled the first 3-D porn movie ever made, broke the previous opening day theatrical record set by Avatar, bringing in 2.78 Hong Kong dollars as compared to the latter's HK$2.63 million.
The numbers were provided by the film’s producer, Stephen Shiu, but we’ll take his word for them anyway. He added that as of Tuesday, the $3.5 million movie has made 17 million Hong Kong dollars ($2.2 million) in Taiwan since it opened last week.
“That's nearly seven times the total take so far for Hollywood thriller Scream 4, which has earned HK$2.5 million ($320,000),” reported the Associated Press.
The numbers aside, the release of the film has been an international event, not just because the film is such an extravagant 3-D production featuring Japanese porn stars Hara Saori and Suo Yukiko and Hong Kong actress Vonnie Liu, but also because it has once again led to a mass exodus (albeit temporarily) of people from China’s mainland to Hong Kong and Taiwan to see the movie. The last time that happened was in 2007 for the uncut version of Lust, Caution by Oscar-winning Taiwanese director Ang Lee.
According to the AP, Hong Kong theaters added women-only screenings along with regular ones in order to cash in on the novelty factor of the opening. The wire service also reported that Sex and Zen opened in about a dozen theaters in Chinese communities in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, but box office results for the Australian cities were not available.
“The movie is scheduled to be released in South Korea on May 12, and in France, Italy and India in June,” reported the AP. “Shiu is also targeting a May release for Singapore, although the filmmakers are still working with local censors on the final cut.”
The “world’s first” claim is also being walked back a bit. While the movie is still being billed as the first 3-D erotic film, Shiu has admitted that South Korea’s Natali beat it to the punch last year. He still apparently refuses to acknowledge the fact that several U.S. 3-D features also were released before Sex and Zen, but there’s a new spin to justify that.
“Shiu's movie is still a pioneering attempt at using new 3-D technology in theatrical releases of erotic films, given that the market in the West is now largely dominated by DVD releases,” said the AP.
It still does not matter which came first. Sex and Zen’s phenomenal success is positive for all concerned.
Photo: Japanese actress Saori Hara on the set of Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy.