Golden Harvest promises rebirth

New management wants renaissance for famed studio

HONG KONG -- The new management of a famed Hong Kong film studio that worked with Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and John Woo promised Wednesday to revive the company into a Chinese powerhouse in movie production and multiplexes.

Hong Kong-listed Golden Harvest Entertainment (Holdings) Ltd. once produced some of Lee's most famous movies, including "Enter the Dragon." In 1979, it signed Chan and released some of his earlier films. The company crossed over to Hollywood with the 1990 hit "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

Golden Harvest later scaled back its productions - its last film was in 2003 - and focused on its movie theater and distribution business. In 2007, founder Raymond Chow sold his controlling stake to Chinese businessman Wu Kebo, who runs China's Orange Sky Entertainment Group (International) Holdings Ltd. Earlier this year, Golden Harvest absorbed Orange Sky's film production unit and changed its name to Orange Sky Golden Harvest.

Meeting the press for the first time since the name change, Orange Sky Golden Harvest executives on Wednesday unveiled an aggressive plan to return to film production and expand its number of movie theaters in China -- from its current 12 to 600 in three years.

China general manager Chen Guowei said the company aims to release five movies a year, including at least one meant to be a big-budget blockbuster. Chen said it invested in the upcoming action thriller "Storm Warriors" and is planning a film about ancient Chinese female warriors with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" producer Bill Kong.

The company announced Wednesday that it had bought two small Chinese theater operators for 29.9 million yuan ($4.4 million), adding 75 screens to its count. With a population of 1.3 billion people, China had nearly 4,100 screens at the end of 2008 -- a ratio of about one screen per 324,000 people.

"The number of movie screens in China is grossly insufficient," Chen said.

"I hope we can become the most influential movie company in China that combines production, distribution and movie theaters in three years," he said.

Orange Sky Golden Harvest faces stiff competition from state-run China Film Group Corp. and leading private studio Huayi Brothers Media Corp., which is about to go public on China's new stock market for small companies. Both leading film producers, China Film Group already runs a multiplex network and Huayi Brothers wants to get into the film exhibition business.

Orange Sky Golden Harvest, which reported a net profit of 82 million Hong Kong dollars ($10.6 million) for the year that ended on June 30, also runs movie theaters in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.

Orange Sky Golden Harvest dropped 4.8% to HK$5.76 in trading in Hong Kong on Wednesday.