Film mogul Run Run Shaw turns 100 -- maybe


HONG KONG -- Run Run Shaw, the mogul responsible for the golden years of Hong Kong film and television, turned 100 Friday -- maybe.

The exact date of Run Run Shaw's birthday is disputed, and news items in Hong Kong and China announcing his 100th birthday have been running since Oct. 4. The family themselves have stated they do not know the exact date of his birth.

A spokesperson for Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), of which Shaw is chairman, would not confirm whether Friday was, or was not, the date of his birth. A Shaw Brothers (HK) Ltd. spokesperson said no comment could be made regarding the date of his birthday.

Shaw has been involved in film production since the 1930s and continues to build his empire, with development of a new 1.1 million square foot, $180 million studio facility jointly developed by Shaw Property Holdings (HK) Ltd. and Shaw Brothers.

"Run Run Shaw was old-school before the term was invented," said Stefan Hammond, author of Hong Kong film tomes "Sex & Zen and A Bullet in the Head" and "Hollywood East." "Sources told me an invitation to a private screening at Shaw's House in the 60s or 70s was a glimpse into a world even Western film moguls like Zanuck or Mayer could scarce imagine: the finest of wine and gourmet food and the rarest of celluloid. Run Run Shaw isn't really a 'legend' per se -- there is no word in the English language to accurately describe him."

Shaw's contribution to Hong Kong cinema included the establishment of a vertically integrated studio system before pulling out of film production and exhibition in the 1980s and divesting all his major theatrical holdings.

Shaw films came to define Hong Kong cinema to the Western world, and are popular sellers today in re-mastered versions, for which Celestial Pictures -- jointly established by Shaw Brothers, TVB and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Astro All Asia Networks plc -- acquired the rights in 2003, and have been releasing on DVD with English, Chinese, and other subtitles.

Run Run Shaw is also the current executive chairman of TVB, Hong Kong's first terrestrial and largest television station, which began broadcasting in 1967. The company's 2007 interim report stated a turnover of HK$1.9 billion ($247 million), a 2% increase over the same period last year.