Celestial Pictures relaunches production arm

Productions restart with two films from Teddy Chen

HONG KONG – Celestial Pictures relaunched its film production arm with an exclusive three-picture distribution and production deal with Teddy Chen, the newly-minted Hong Kong Film Awards best director winner of "Bodyguard and Assassins," Celestial senior VP of theatrical distribution Peter Poon told The Hollywood Reporter.

The new deal entails a distribution and production agreement with Chen’s production company Sum-Wood Productions, including the international distribution (excluding China) for Chen’s producing project, “The Enchanter," to be directed by Derek Kwok (Hong Kong Film Awards 2009 best new director winner of “The Moss”); filming is scheduled to commence in late July and aim for a late 2010 or early 2011 release. Most of the star alumni of Chen’s “Bodyguards" except Nicholas Tse, who bowed out due to a scheduling conflict, will make an appearance in “The Enchanter," the first Celestial distribution project since the joint production “Perhaps Love” in 2005.

Celestial, which owns the 700-titled Shaw Brothers film library, will fund, co-produce and manage the director’s next two projects, which he will also produce. The first is a big-budget remake of as-yet-undecided Shaw brothers period costume actioner, which Poon said the director has narrowed down to two Shaw Brothers classics. The company will look for a Chinese co-producing partner for releasing in China, with a target date of late 2011. The second project between Celestial and Chen will be a contemporary action film inspired by current events, also aimed to be a Hong Kong-China co-production.

As is the norm for studios at present, Celestial’s decision to relaunch production is based on the enormous market potential in China, Poon said, but in addition, its movie channel in Southeast Asia. “Celestial is a Chinese content company; the theatrical market demand in China is definitely a part of the calculation. But we also need good quality Chinese-language films to supply to our movie channel in Southeast Asia. So the company has set an objective late last year to produce our own film content,” Poon said. 

Celestial, the Hong Kong-based subsidiary of Malaysia’s Astro, now plans to produce four to five theatrical releases in the coming year, based on a three-pronged strategy: a director-based route to develop new scripts, updates or remakes of Shaw Brothers classics, and producer-based projects. The company is now in negotiations with a number of directors and producers from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan for exclusive multi-picture deals. It also aims to find promising young directors across Asia for future medium-budget productions.