TV in the stars for Celestial

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Hong Kong's Celestial Pictures is shifting its focus away from film production and distribution in favor of TV production and the continued exploitation of its 760-title Shaw Brothers library, the world's largest Chinese film collection.

Celestial said today that Kadokawa Entertainment has purchased a range of Shaw Brothers classics for distribution in Japan on mobile, video and VOD, and pay and free TV. Meanwhile, MGM Channel Central Europe, which reaches viewers in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, paid for martial arts titles including "The Five Deadly Venoms" and "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin."

Celestial declined to disclose the value of the sales, but its Shaw Brothers library is the company's prime source of revenue — generating nearly $52 million in 2007 via licensing and distribution of the library and the Celestial movie channel.

Terry Mak, executive vp distribution and TV networks, said Celestial plans more in-house production of TV shows and drama series and aims to focus on the distribution of TV series it buys across Southeast Asia. Film production and distribution no longer will be a priority.

"The market has changed. We realized it is harder for imported films to do good business," Mak said. "Only the films with big budgets and big names can make it here. Now we tend to be more selective, only to distribute projects that we are sure to be profitable."

In 2007, Celestial released "The Golden Compass," earning HK$14.6 million ($1.9 million), well below the Hong Kong boxoffice topper "Spider-Man 3," which grossed HK$55 million ($7 million).
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