Fox captures 'Bandits' in China


20th Century Fox will co-produce its first Chinese-language movie in China in June, the studio said Thursday, unveiling plans for a martial arts movie by Hong Kong director Andrew Lau.

The announcement adds Fox to the shortlist of Hollywood studios to navigate moviemaking in the strictly regulated mainland Chinese film industry. Co-productions here grant China's Film Bureau final cut in exchange for a theatrical release to China's growing moviegoing audience.

With co-production partners Beijing Ciwen Digital Oriental Film & TV Production Co. and its Hong Kong-based News Corp. subsidiary Fortune Star Entertainment, Fox said that the script for the tentatively titled "Gold Bandits" is being written by Hong Kong writer-director Gordon Chan ("Beast Cop," "Fist of Legend").

Lau's directing credits include the "Infernal Affairs" movies.

"Co-financing 'Gold Bandits' is part of the studio's country-by-country strategy to align ourselves with credible third-party producers … to create distribution partnerships that begin locally, spread regionally and ultimately reach film audiences worldwide," Fox senior vp film acquisitions Tony Safford said.

No budget was announced, and the three co-production companies did not return phone calls at press time.

Fox will distribute the film in the West and retain home video distribution rights for mainland China. In November, Fox announced a home entertainment partnership with Zoke Culture Group, a DVD-distribution giant based in Guangzhou.

"Following up on our promise to contribute to China's growing consumer market and to support development of the country's film industry, we are thrilled to announce our first Chinese-language co-production deal," said Mike Dunn, president of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Ciwen will handle "Bandits' " theatrical distribution on the mainland and Fortune Star will oversee distribution in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea and India.

Co-producers will include Ciwen general manager Ma Zhong-Jun and Fortune Star general manager Peter Poon.

Sony Columbia and Warner Bros. also have co-produced films in mainland China. Warner Bros. is the only Hollywood studio with a mainland China-based co-production joint venture.