As an account of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal at the end of the second world war, Tokyo Trial has historical interest. It has a star-studded cast (veteran Hong Kong actors Eric Tsang Chi-wai and Damian Lau Chung-yan, mainland stalwarts Guo Tao and Ying Da, and Taiwanese heartthrobs Ken Chu Xiao-tian and Kelly Lin Xi-lei). And it has racked up eight-digit box-office revenues since it opened on the mainland last September. But the film failed to generate much fanfare when it opened in Hong Kong last week. Screenings were confined to two small cinemas in Ma On Shan and Fanling. Its local distributor says it was always destined for a one-week run on general release. 'Well, that's unless a lot of people rush to the cinemas to see it,' says Tony Leung Hung-wah, of Times Production. Tokyo Trial (below) was 'universally rejected' by local cinema chains, he says, because it was already screening on the mainland and available on DVD in Hong Kong. But mainland productions just don't make a big splash in Hong Kong, even if they enjoy commercial and critical success up north. Leung says that, unless foreign partners are involved, mainland producers generally don't know how to 'package their products to make them more interesting - for example, roping in some well-known stars'. When the film's backers approached him for financial support he shied away. 'I told them it'd be hard to market it overseas. I suggested they get some Hong Kong and Taiwanese actors - at least I'd be able to secure buyers from Southeast Asia.' Yet even star power hasn't helped the film in Hong Kong. The failure of Tokyo Trial to get bums on seats is hardly unprecedented. Even major mainland directors have found it difficult to crack the local market. Zhang Yimou's Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles took only HK$284,000 when it was released in the city last March. And then there's Feng Xiao-gang, probably the mainland's most bankable filmmaker. Last year's The Banquet ended its 62-day run with takings of HK$8.3 million, losing out to the much smaller-scale local movie Man Suddenly in Black 2 (42 days, HK$8.6 million) last September. Chen Kaige's The Promise bombed in Hong Kong in 2005, taking HK$5.2 million. If mainstream blockbusters sputter, smaller productions are almost certainly doomed. Ning Hao's Crazy Stone, the mainland's surprise hit of the year, brought in more than 20 million yuan. Hong Kong receipts for its three-week limited release came to just HK$369,500. 'Hong Kong audiences still have this view of mainland films as old-fashioned and demagogic,' says Gary Mak Sing-hei, associate director of the Broadway Cinematheque. 'What we have to do is to make people see them in a different light. But it's hard, given how lean the pickings are.'