Emperor Group unveils film slate aimed at China

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HONG KONG -- Hong Kong-based Emperor Group Pictures has unveiled a new slate of a dozen films, with budgets of $1 million-$10 million, geared toward penetrating the emerging Chinese market.

"There are basically two corporations working with film production in Hong Kong. There's us and Media Asia," Emperor Motion Pictures chief operating officer Philip Chan said Tuesday at Filmart. "I can see the China audience maturing. The market is out there, and I don't think there is any better time."

The new slate at EMP, formerly best known for its in-house productions, combines a mixture of distribution, investment and equity deals and is toplined by the $10 million drama "The Sun Also Rises," directed by Jiang Wen and starring Joan Chen, Jaycee Chan and Anthony Wong.

"Sun," a series of interconnected stories set across numerous time zones, is a co-production between EMP, Beijing Taihe Film Investment and Beijing's Buyilehu Films (HR 12/7). It's set to premiere in the summer across Southeast Asia.

Chan, a former actor who has appeared in 36 films and directed 14, said EMP will not consider any films with a subject matter that cannot be released in China.

He also said that EMP will shy away from using the same stable of actors. "We will never become a Shaw Brothers Studio where the same guy is kissing the same girl," he said.

Also on the new slate are "Arrow Warriors," a $10 million production written by "Curse of the Golden Flower" scribes Wu Nan and Bian Zhihong. Because of the scale and the CGI effects involved, the film is set for release in late 2008.

"Slam Dunk," a $10 million action comedy about a young kung fu master with "mad" basketball skills, is directed by Kevin Chu Yin Ping ("How Young") and stars Taiwanese pop singer-actor Jay Chou. Currently in production, it's also set to be released next year.

Other films announced include "Oh My Dog," a $4 million action comedy produced by Phillip Chan and Jeff Lau, about an abandoned border collie. The film, which stars Isabella Leung, is set for release in 2008.

Leung also will star in "Downloading Alice," about the dark adventures of a young woman in modern-day Hong Kong. To be directed by Lawrence Lau, "Alice" is in preproduction.

Additional films announced include "Evening Rain," a $3 million ghost story based in Shanghai. Helmer Alex Law ("Beijing Rocks") is slated to be behind the camera when filming begins at the end of the year.

"The Drummer," a coming-of-age story directed by Kenneth Bi ("Rice Rhapsody") and starring Jaycee Chan and Lee Sin Je ("Re-cycle"), is slated for release in September. "The Fantastic Water Babes" is set to finish filming in August for an early 2008 release date. The $3 million action comedy about swimming stars Gillian Chung and is directed by Jeff Lau. "Home Run," "Sweet Revenge," "The Knot" and "The Deserted Inn" round out the slate.
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