Hong Kong's CelestialPictures is expanding its international distribution activities beyond the ShawBrothers library to include third-party pick-ups and films it has co-financed,such as Peter Chan's upcoming musical Perhaps Love.
At this week's FilMart,Celestial will be selling two films produced by Hong Kong's Abba Movies -Wilson Yip's kung-fu action title SPL and A Gan's romantic drama LoveMessage.
The company is handlingAsian territories on SPL, which stars Sammo Hung and Donnie Yen, andworldwide rights, excluding Hong Kong and China, on Love Message.
Celestial is also handlingworldwide sales on Perhaps Love, which stars Chinese actress Zhou Xunand House Of Flying Daggers star Takeshi Kaneshiro.
According to Celestial CEOWilliam Pfeiffer, the company has put up a "significant share" of the film'sUS$10m budget alongside other investors including Celestial's parent company,Malaysian pay-TV operator Astro, China's Stellar Megamedia and Hong Kongbroadcaster TVB.
Launched in 2001, Celestialhas so far focused on distribution of the 760-title Shaw Brothers library,setting up a global network of video distribution partners and its CelestialMovies TV channel, which is carried in Australia and several Asian markets.
However, the company hasbeen pre-buying new productions for its TV channels, often throughmulti-picture deals, and is now expanding its portfolio of rights.
"In most cases we'resecuring product for our TV channels, but at the same time we're using theinfrastructure built on the Shaw Brothers distribution business to distributeother people's product," Pfeiffer explains. "That includes Chinese, Korean,Japanese and other international product."
The company is also rampingup its production finance activity. When Celestial launched three years ago, itannounced plans to produce theatrical features, but has since opted toco-finance titles such as Perhaps Love rather than shoulder all therisk.
"We're trying to expand intoproduction in the safest zone where we get the product we need and candistribute it with a high degree of confidence that we'll make money ratherthan take all the risk of production," Pfeiffer says.
Pfeiffer adds that thecompany is entering theatrical distribution in certain territories. Celestialhas acquired all Hong Kong rights to About Love - an omnibus of romanticstories directed by China's Zhang Yibai, Taiwan's Yee Chih-yen and Japan's TenShimoyama - which it plans to release in Hong Kong in April.
Reflecting the company'sexpansion, distribution chief Gordon Cheung has been given the new titleexecutive vice president, acquisitions & distribution, responsible for newmovie productions and distribution.
The company has alsoappointed former TVB International executive, Terry Mak, to the position ofexecutive vice president, TV Networks & Distribution. Annie Ng, formergeneral manager of Channel V China, has also joined the company as GeneralManager, Television, China.