The mantra from local film-makers has long been that Hong Kong's cinema-going public only wants to see the big stars on the screen. But a little film from Singapore has shown this is not always the case. I Not Stupid (pictured), a low-budget movie about Singaporean children dealing with the pressures of school life, and featuring 'stars' that most Hong Kong people would never have seen before, has been on local screens for more than three months. Despite opening at just eight cinemas - it is currently screening once a day at Cine-Art House only - it has still managed to reap $5 million. While that's not a staggering figure by any means, it becomes quite impressive when compared with the Hong Kong-made movies that came out at about the same time. Visible Secret II, starring Canto-pop star Eason Chan Yick-shun, took about the same ($5.5 million) over a four-week run but was shown in 35 houses. The popularity of girl pop twosome Twins earned Summer Breeze Of Love $9 million, but it opened at 40 cinemas. Joe Cheung, chairman of the Hong Kong Film Awards Association, says stars should not be the sole focus of our cinema viewing. Cheung cites The Eye, which did not have any big stars but scored $14 million at the box office within 42 days, and Korean films such as My Sassy Girl, which also took in $14 million, as good examples of 'smaller' films that have fared well. 'These films have achieved satisfactory box office, and they didn't rely on actors' names. It proves that there's still room for creativity in Hong Kong,' Cheung says. 'It's time for both investors and film-makers to think about this issue. If they still believe in big stars being the sole attraction for an audience, they are very ignorant.' It was not always this way. According to Woody Tsung Wan-chi, president of the Hong Kong Motion Picture Industry Association, during the 1980s - the middle of Hong Kong's 'golden era' - local cinema was dominated not by stars but by the films' creators. Film-makers banded together to form companies such as Cinema City, and New Wave directors Tsui Hark and Ann Hui On-wah constantly brought fresh and challenging ideas on to the scene. The films to top the charts in those days - which usually meant they took in more than $10 million - were not just big-budget, blockbuster, action flicks such as the Police Story series (which began in 1985) and the Aces Go Places series (1982), but lower-budget comedies and dramas including The Yuppie Fantasia (1989), which scooped more than $16 million.