The past few years have seen a drastic decline in the productivity of the Hong Kong movie industry and, in turn, a similar decline in its profits. Whereas less than a decade ago Hong Kong was a thriving movie center, turning out 300-400 films every year, this past year saw the release of only 47 local films, which - as a group - earned less than $40 million.

According to actor/director Eric Tsang, much of the reason for the decline comes from the departure of action directors and designers for the cushy life in Hollywood. Though a handful of HK luminaries have recently returned home to work (John Woo, for example, and Chow Yun-Fat will both have Chinese language films coming out in the next couple of years), many have no interest in returning. In addition, no younger generation of filmmakers has yet emerged to take the place of those who are departing, or who are no longer working at the frenzied pace of years gone by.

Though many feel that a massive infusion of cash is the only answer to the crisis, Tsang sees an alternative: instead of maintaining distinct Chinese, HK, and Taiwanese industries, he suggests that the three Chinese-language industries pool their resources in order to produce a greater number of high-quality, high-earning films.

Whatever the answer, we'll certainly be keeping an eye on Hong Kong during 2006; it would be a tragedy to see such a creative, passionate industry fall off the world map.