Hong Kong’s arts and entertainment scene is healthier than ever. The increasingly busy cultural calendar includes music, drama and dance hailing from a plethora of traditions. The schedule of imported performances is nothing short of stellar. And every week, local arts companies and artists perform anything from Bach or stand-up to Cantonese opera and English versions of Chekhov plays.
Local western music ensembles and theatre troupes stage weekly shows, while famous foreign groups are invited to perform often, particularly at the Hong Kong Arts Festival. The annual event attracts world-class names in all genres of music, theatre and dance, including the likes of the Bolshoi Ballet, Anne-Sophie Mutter and playwright Robert Wilson.
Unsurprisingly, Hong Kong is one of the best places on earth to watch Cantonese opera. The best time to catch a performance is during the Hong Kong Arts Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival, when outdoor gigs are staged in Victoria Park. You can also catch a performance at the Temple Street Night Market or during Chinese festivals.
There are irregular performances at the historic Sunbeam Theatre and regular shows at the Yau Ma Tei Theatre and Ko Shan Theatre (www.lcsd.gov.hk/kst), both in Kowloon. If you don’t speak Cantonese, the best way to book tickets for any performance is through Hong Kong Ticketing, Urbtix or Cityline.
Hong Kong is well served with cinema, screening both mainstream and art-house films. Cinemas usually show local productions and Hollywood blockbusters. The vast majority of films have both English and Chinese subtitles. Book tickets and seats online or in person well before the show.
Cinema buffs from all over Asia make the pilgrimage to the annual Hong Kong International Film Festival. Cine Fan (www.cinefan.com.hk), run by the same folks, has offerings all year round.
Avenue of Stars
Much of Kowloon's prime waterfront is dedicated to stars of the Hong Kong cinema, honoured through statues and hand prints. Though foreigners may not recognise many of the names, everyone loves to pose in front of the Bruce Lee statue. The giant bronze pig, in case you're wondering, is McDull, a beloved Hong Kong children's cartoon. In early 2019 it is due to re-emerge more starry eyed than ever after a sprucing up.
The highlight in Hong Kong’s live-music calendar is the excellent multi-act outdoor music festival known as Clockenflap. The three-day event has featured dozens of local, regional and international acts performing at the West Kowloon promenade.
Hong Kong is a stop on the big-name concert circuit, and a growing number of internationally celebrated bands and solo artists perform here. These include mainstream acts and those on the edge of the mainstream – from U2, Guns N' Roses and Madonna, to Kings of Convenience, Deerhoof and Mogwai.
Hong Kong’s live-music scene has seen a growing number of venues hosting independent musicians (imported and local) several nights a week. The options range from a smooth evening of jazz to a raucous night of goth metal, not to mention dub step, post-rock, drum ‘n’ bass and electronica.
The Hong Kong International Jazz Festival caters to jazz lovers.
Need to Know
Expect to pay around HK$80 for a seat up the back for a local ensemble and from about HK$600 for a performance by big-name international acts or an international musical such as Chicago.
Movie tickets cost between HK$65 and HK$100, but can be cheaper at matinees, at the last screening of the day (usually 11.30pm), on weekends and on holidays, or on certain days of the week. Almost all non-English-language films have both Chinese and English subtitles.