New Peter Chan firm eyes China-H.K. co-prod's

Company will spend $73 mil with Huang Jianxin, Polybona

BEIJING -- Hong Kong director Peter Chan (Warlords), and Chinese producer Huang Jianxin (Mummy 3) have joined Polybona International to form a new Beijing-based production company with plans to make 15 films in three years with 500 million yuan ($73.09 million).

At a press event Sunday attended by Tong Gang, head of China's top cinema regulatory body, the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT), Chan and Huang joined Yu Dong, president of Polybona, the largest private distributor of Hong Kong films in China, to say that the new company, called Cinema Popular, would begin work in March on a co-production with the China Film Group.

Cinema Popular's first film, Dark October, will be directed by Teddy Chen (Downtown Torpedoes) in Shanghai and backed by additional investment from the Shanghai Media Group, Chan and CFG, CFG Chairman Han Sanping told reporters gathered at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

Hong Kong films co-produced with Chinese partners are now the lifeblood of the struggling Hong Kong film industry. The new company hopes to reap two billion yuan over the next three years from its initial slate, a spokesperson for Applause Pictures, Chan’s Hong Kong production company, said by telephone.

Yu, whose Polybona is the entertainment business arm of the Chinese army, said the partnership with Chan, one of Hong Kong's most popular directors, was a long time coming. "We were looking to work with a director who could make new and innovative films, and a producer who could develop new films, the kind of films that would make people want to go to the cinemas and see them," Yu said.

Co-productions made under the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, usually see the China partner injecting 30% to 40% of a film's budget in exchange for distribution rights in China.

Films that meet CEPA conditions governing investment and the use of Chinese labor skirt China's law that limits to 20 the number of imported films allowed to share in boxoffice revenue each year.

Li Ruigang, SMG chairman, said he and Tong "wanted to express our confidence in Cinema Popular. These three top film people represent the hard work of the Chinese film industry. We hope that the films produced as a result of this agreement bring more people into the cinemas, and inspire the film industry to greater creativity."

CEPA co-productions typically face an easier pass through SARFT censorship and into distribution.  However, in recent years, growing Chinese boxoffice returns have accounted for the lion's share of co-produced films' gross, tipping the balance in favor of China-based investors and producers.

Polybona claimed almost 80% market share in distributing China-Hong Kong co-productions within China.

Chan and Huang previously worked together on the period war film and boxoffice hit Warlords, (2007) with Chan directing and Huang producing. Huang also produced on numerous foreign films shot in China, including Kill Bill, The Mummy:  Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and The Kite Runner.