China's Bona Film Group First-Quarter Revenue, Profit Rise

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Yu Dong

"The Man from Macau," featuring Chow Yun-fat, helped drive the improved performance at the Chinese distributor.

Chinese film producer and distributor Bona Film Group, in which Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns a 19.9 percent stake, reported a 30 percent increase in revenue for the first quarter, higher earnings and said it was on track for another box-office record this year.

Revenue for the first quarter, which ended in March, came in at $56.6 million, up 30.7 percent from the same quarter in 2013. Earnings rose from $500,000 to $1.4 million.

The group distributed three movies theatrically in the first quarter -- Lee Chi Ngai’s Horseplay, Wong Jing’s The Man from Macau and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

"Our first quarter revenue was again fueled by steady growth in our distribution and movie theater business segments, with our Chinese New Year blockbuster The Man from Macau achieving over 520 million yuan ($83.36 million) box office, making us well positioned to achieve another box-office record in 2014," said Bona's founder, chairman and CEO Yu Dong in a statement.

"The growth of the Chinese film market in 2014 to date continues to be exceptionally strong, with box office and movie attendance both growing at around 30 percent year-over-year in the first quarter. With the film investment fund in place and a good number of exciting projects in our pipeline, we aim to advance key strategic initiatives in all of our business segments in 2014," he said.

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During the period Bona won regulatory approvals and quotas to distribute two foreign films, Non-Stop and Pompeii, while 12 Years A Slave is currently going through regulatory approval process.

The three films are currently being edited and translated for the China market and are tentatively slated for the second and third quarters depending on their respective progress, the group said.

During the quarter, Bona signed contracts to invest in and/or distribute two high-profile projects.

The first is Duckweed, the directorial debut of the wildly popular novelist, racing driver and blogger Han Han. The movie features a mainland cast including Feng Shaofeng, Berlin Chen, Joe Chan and Wallace Chung, and tells the story of three young men yearning for their ideals of life.

Han Han’s site on the microblog site Weibo has attracted over 40 million regular fans and the movie is slated for release in late July.

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Bride Wars is a Bona-Fox cooperation and is expected to start principal photography in late June. Based on the 2009 Fox comedy with the same title, the movie is directed by Tony Chan and starring Angelababy and Ni Ni, two of China's most popular young actresses.

"This cooperation represents an important milestone for Bona and is tentatively scheduled for an early 2015 release," the group said.

Films scheduled for the second quarter include the low-budget romance To Love Somebody and Overheard 3, the latest installment in Bona's popular Overheard franchise, directed by Alan Mak and Felix Chong.

Last year, Bona launched the $165 million Bona Film Investment Fund in partnership with Sequoia Capital Management and Noah Holdings, and it also saw a strategic investment by the Fosun Group.