China's Bona Film Group Racks Up Record First-Quarter Earnings

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Chow Yun-fat-starrer 'The Man from Macau 2' helped fuel the largest quarterly revenue in the history of Bona Film Group.

Net revenues at China's Bona Film Group rose 108 percent year-on-year to $117.6 million in the first quarter of this year, boosted by the success of the group's film production and distribution segments.

"Our Chinese New Year blockbuster, The Man from Macau 2, achieved over 973.5 million yuan ($156.85 million) in box office receipts in its theatrical run, making it the highest- grossing film distributed by Bona, and one of the top 10 box office performers in China's film history, including foreign films," Bona's founder, chairman and CEO Yu Dong, said in a statement.

The Man from Macau 2 was released in February and is Bona's biggest hit ever and one of the top 10 best box office performers in China.

The 3D version of Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster 3D earned $10.13 million in box office when it was released in January.

Combined with Tales of Mystery and Emperor's Holidays, as well as The Taking of Tiger Mountain, which was released in late December 2014, Bona's box office haul was $260 million (1.6 billion yuan) in the first quarter of 2015.

Looking ahead, the prospects for the rest of the year seem upbeat, said Yu.

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During the quarter, Bona also set up a second film fund of $272.6 million to finance the development and production of its film and TV projects over the next two to three years, including Chinese language films and foreign language films. The fund will give Bona the resources for investment and growth, Yu said.

"Our international strategy will continue to play an important role in our continued growth, as we bring high-quality foreign films to the domestic market, while delivering first-class Chinese films to the world, which is our mission as a leader in the Chinese film industry," he said.

Among the projects in production in the first quarter were The Phantom of Shanghai (formerly named The Shadow of the Devil City), Sword Master and Secret Treasure.

In January, Bona said it would link up with Jeff Robinov's  Studio 8 and Tristar to develop the film adaptation of Ben Fountain's novel Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, to be directed by Ang Lee. The film began principal photography in April 2015.

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By the end of April, Bona owned and operated 30 theaters with 250 screens, including 6 DMAX screens and 3 IMAX screens. The Company added four additional theaters in the smaller cities of Liuzhou, Mianyang, Dalian and Taizhou in the first quarter and one additional theater in Taiyuan in April.

"We expect the Chinese film industry to generate strong box office returns in 2015, and believe that Bona's solid slate of films and vertically integrated business model will make us well positioned to capitalize on the growth in the market," concluded Mr. Yu.

In July last year, Bona announced major shake-up of its ownership structure, with investment group Fosun upping its stake in Bona to 20.8 percent, while Yu bought back 21st Century Fox's entire 19.3 percent holding in the company for $71.4 million.

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