Celestial films ride digital wave

'70s kung fu classics repurposed for download to mobile

Hong Kong-based Malaysian movie producer and distributor Celestial Pictures is trimming films from its Shaw Bros. catalog into 30-minute versions in a bid to ride global digital media trends.

The half-hour versions will then be cut into episodes of three to four minutes suitable for mobile devices, according to Celestial Pictures chief executive officer William Pfeiffer.

The first film adapted into a series for mobile is 1970?s ?The Twelve Gold Medallions,? a martial arts feature directed by Cheng Kang.

?We have tried to keep it close to form. We look at ourselves as the keepers of the history and the legacy of the Shaw Bros.,? Pfeiffer said. ?We want to make it appealing and retro chic, but we don?t want to denigrate the integrity of the work.?

The mobisodes are an ?interesting, experimental and complementary part of (our) multiple streams of income,? he said. ?We?re doing everything from ringtones to remakes.?

But Pfeiffer said the mobile strategy, which includes movie-based games, is not expected to generate huge revenue and buyers at AFM are much more interested in the traditional movie form.
Gordon Cheung, executive vp acquisitions and distribution, said buyers at AFM are focused on Celestial?s features, not the mobisodes. ?These are traditional film buyers,? Cheung said.

Cheung also noted that Celestial is looking to do remakes of cult classics ?Five Deadly Venoms? and ?Flying Guillotine? as part of a local remake strategy. The company is in talks with mainland co-production partners on both films and plans to begin shooting in Beijing and northeast China in December.

Two more remakes are being planned, Pfeiffer said, though titles have not been disclosed.
The remake plans come as Celestial Pictures, which also operates two satellite television channels, wraps shooting on its first big-budget TV series. The $4.4 million, 45-episode costume drama, which has not yet been given an English title, is based on the life of China?s first uncrowned empress and is scheduled for release by the end of the year.

Janine Stein reported from Singapore. Jonathan Landreth reported from Santa Monica.