It may seem like we've only just digested the last crumbs of moon cake, but Hong Kong's film studios are already deep into planning which local movies will be released during the next Lunar New Year holiday period. Spring Festival is a peak box-office period for film distributors in Hong Kong and on the mainland. Christmas and summer are also important, but at Lunar New Year, local films usually face less competition from big-budget Hollywood releases. It's also a time when comedies and inspiring stories seem to work better than horror films and tear-jerkers. 'It's a family holiday that ensures good fortune for the entire year - so everyone wants to watch happy films,' says Mandarin Films' distribution chief Virginia Leung Shin-chong. 'People don't want to cry or be scared.' There should be a good range of local movies on offer during next year's holiday, which falls on January 22. Much has already been written about Silver Hawk, which stars Michelle Yeoh Choo-kheng as a masked superheroine fighting off baddies alongside Richie Jen. Directed by Jingle Ma and produced by Yeoh's production company, Mythical Films, the film was shot during the Sars period in Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo and finally wrapped last month. Until recently, China Star Entertainment, which always produces something for this key holiday period, seemed to be keeping mum about its plans. But the company recently revealed that it's preparing a film to be directed by Johnnie To Kei-fung and Wai Ka-fai. Although the cast has yet to be confirmed, some of Hong Kong's biggest names have been lined up to star including Andy Lau Tak-wah, Louis Koo Tin-lok, Tony Leung Ka-fai and Aaron Kwok Fu-sing. According to To's production company, Milkyway Image, the film is an ensemble piece, rather than driven by one or two stars, and aims to be funny and uplifting at the same time. 'It's a story about a group of middle-aged friends who have reached a crossroads in their lives and are looking for something that will give them fulfilment,' says Milkyway film co-ordinator Yuin Shan Ding. 'They're ordinary people living ordinary lives but they're stuck in a rut. They decide to take up judo and find that it gives them a fresh start in life.' The film, which has the English working title Judo Dragon Tiger Chart, is expected to start shooting this weekend. Meanwhile, two other leading film studios - Media Asia and Mandarin Films - have already started production on their Lunar New Year releases. Media Asia is making a romantic comedy, Magic Kitchen, which stars Sammi Cheng Sau-man as a chef who is unlucky in love and Andy Lau Tak-wah (who could end up starring in competing films over Lunar New Year) as the ex-boyfriend she can't forget. Jerry Yen, from Taiwanese boy band F4, also stars as Cheng's young assistant and secret admirer. The director is Lee Chi-ngai, who previously directed Lost And Found and Sleepless Town, the latter starring Takeshi Kaneshiro. Media Asia is also preparing a second comedy starring Miriam Yeung Chin-wah and Richie Jen to be released just after Lunar New Year - probably about Valentine's Day. As mentioned in Close-up last week, Mandarin has also started production on a Lunar New Year comedy - In-laws, Outlaws - which takes a light-hearted look at the way a family reacts when the sons become romantically involved with foreign women. Eric Tsang Chi-wai, Shawn Yue Man-lok and Lydia Shum Tin-ha head the cast. One studio that appears to be missing from next year's lineup of Lunar New Year productions is Raymond Chow's Golden Harvest. The company usually churns out a movie for the holiday - last year it produced My Lucky Star with Yeung and Tony Leung Chiu-wai - but this year has decided to focus on distributing Silver Hawk rather than make its own film. Lunar New Year falls only a few weeks after Christmas next year and there are some who believe this could have a negative effect on the holiday box office as it's too close to Christmas. But most distributors are hopeful. 'It all depends on the movies that are being released,' says Mandarin's Leung. 'If they look exciting enough, everyone will want to see them. It doesn't matter that they've already been to the cinema at Christmas.'