Cannes: HBO, China Movie Channel to Co-Produce More Martial Arts Films (Exclusive)

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China Movie Channel vp Zhang Ling (left), HBO Asia CEO Jonathan Spink

The deal marks HBO's second co-production pact for the massive Chinese TV sector, which counts some 1.2 billion viewers.

HBO Asia is again partnering with China Movie Channel to co-develop and produce a pair of Chinese-language martial arts movies for television.

The project will mark HBO and its affiliates' second co-production pact for the massive Chinese TV sector, which counts some 1.2 billion estimated viewers. China Movie Channel (CMC), also known as CCTV6, is the flagship entertainment channel of state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).

Last year, CMC and HBO Asia co-produced Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So and Master of the Shadowless Kick: Wong Kei-Ying, two martial-arts flicks set in ancient China at the end of the Qing dynasty. The movies were directed by Guo Jian-yong, a veteran action choreographer on projects like John Woo's Red Cliff and Jason Statham's Transporter franchise. The films were then aired simultaneously on CMC’s channels in mainland China and across 23 Asian territories on HBO and RED by HBO.

"We were very pleased with how our first collaboration turned out, so we are very happy to be partnering with HBO on two more high-quality TV movies that celebrate Chinese culture and history," Zhang Ling, vice president of China Movie Channel, told The Hollywood Reporter at the Cannes Film Festival.

Zhang declined to share further details about the new projects. But, like their predecessors, each film is expected to be a stand-alone story exploring the life of a legendary martial arts master from Chinese history — together, the movies will form a loose series, or portfolio, of martial-arts sagas.

CMC is no newcomer to collaborations with Hollywood. In 2014, it invested in Paramount’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, and it also took a stake in Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation the following year.

"We are looking to partner with more experienced entertainment companies from around the world," said Zhang. "These collaborations give our talents and creative teams an opportunity to learn from Hollywood production experience, and they also help us share Chinese culture with the world in very professional way."

Zhang shared the news of the projects with THR shortly before the kickoff of the annual China Night Party held on the beach in front of the iconic Hotel Majestic in Cannes. Now in its ninth year, the China Night Party added an entertainment industry panel discussion component to the festivities for this year's edition. Panelists included leaders of the Chinese film industry, such as Bona Film Group chairman Yu Dong, as well as U.S. and international industry players, such as Lorenzo Soria, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the organizer of the Golden Globes); Jonathan Wolf, managing director of the American Film Market; and Valerie Lepine Karnlk, CEO of Film France. The panel series was recorded for a delayed broadcast on China Movie Channel.

"Over the nine years that we have been hosting the China Night event in Cannes, the Chinese film industry has experienced amazing growth and development," said Zhang. "Our goal is to continue finding new ways to build connections and encourage business and exchange between the Chinese film industry and experienced entertainment professionals from around the world."