HONG KONG movies have found a new generation of admirers in Japan and a fan club devoted to the genre which started with 400 members now numbers 5,000. A film-distributing company, Prenom H, is being hailed for sparking the trend. Marketing executive Hiroko Shinohara first became fascinated by Chinese films during a visit to the territory several years ago. 'I spent an entire week watching about 30 movies made in Hong Kong and China,' she said. 'I was surprised to discover there was a place so nearby where such fantastic movies were being made - yet so few were being screened in Japan.' Intending to arouse interest for the movies back home, she came up with the idea of staging the Hong Kong New Cinema Film Festival. 'That was the turning point,' she said. 'The word spread that Hong Kong was producing many kinds of movies, different from the stereotyped image of kung-fu and slapstick comedy. 'Japanese audiences are discovering there are a lot of high-quality movies coming from Hong Kong.' Another explanation for their popularity is international recognition. 'They have been picking up awards at top film festivals like Venice and Cannes,' Miss Shinohara said. 'It is unfortunate but Japanese are very prone to show respect for anything that has been praised in the West.' Prenom H runs its own membership organisation and shop selling videos and movie paraphernalia in Tokyo. Thousands of club members are kept informed of developments in the Hong Kong film industry through a magazine, Hong Kong Cinema Express. The energetic local directors who have already chosen to distribute their movies in Japan through Prenom H include Jeff Lau, Wong Kar-wai and Ann Hui. Asked how Prenom H had developed such a relationship with Hong Kong directors, Miss Shinohara said: 'The important thing is an over-riding eagerness to distribute the chosen film or make a market in Japan for a particular director's work.' The formula clearly suits both the Hong Kong directors and Prenom H. Negotiations to distribute Wong Kar-wai's latest film in Japan were completed in just five minutes.