HBO Asia, China Movie Channel to Co-Produce Martial Arts Flicks for TV

HBO Asia CEO Jonathan Spink - Getty H 2016
Courtesy of Getty Images

The project will be HBO's first Chinese-language production starring Chinese talent, according to HBO Asia CEO Jonathan Spink.

HBO Asia is partnering with China Movie Channel to develop and co-produce an anthology of Chinese-language martial arts action movies for television. 

The project marks HBO and its affiliates' first co-production in the massive Chinese TV sector, which counts an estimated 1.2 billion viewers. China Movie Channel (CMC), also known as CCTV6, is the flagship entertainment channel of state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).

Set to premiere at the end of the year, the first two films under the partnership will be executive produced by veteran Hong Kong action director Corey Yuen (co-director of the first Transporter film and action director of the first X-Men movie, among many other martial arts credits).

Set in ancient China at the end of the Qing dynasty, the movies — titled Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So and Master of the Shadowless Kick: Wong Kei-Ying — will feature "gritty combat sequences executed by a cast of Chinese actors professionally trained in mixed martial arts, kung fu and muay thai," HBO Asia revealed.

They will be air simultaneously on CMC’s channels in Mainland China and across 23 Asian territories on HBO and RED by HBO.

The Hollywood Reporter first reported the plans of a development and production partnership between HBO and CMC at the Cannes Film Festival in May. 

“Apart from being HBO Asia’s very first Chinese language production and approach to the genre, this also marks the network’s first collaboration with talents from China and Hong Kong,” said Jonathan Spink, CEO of HBO Asia.

Production on the first two pics is now underway at China’s Hengdian studios. Action choreographer and director Guo Jian Yong (So Close) is directing, while Singaporean screenwriter Koh Teng Liang is part of the writing team behind the screenplay for Shadowless Kick.

CMC is the official Chinese broadcaster of the Oscars. The state-backed company also has invested in several Hollywood films, including Paramount's Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) and Skydance Production's Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (2015). 

"This is the first time CMC is doing a co-production of original TV movies," said president and managing director Cao Yin, adding: "Through this partnership, we hope to exchange knowledge and know-how in the production of original content, and together with HBO Asia, introduce the essence of our culture through martial arts.”

HBO Asia has previously collaborated with filmmakers in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia on various English-language productions, including the fantasy series Halfworlds, which was recently renewed for a second season and is being shot in Thailand.