Hong Kong's Celestial Pictures is set to roll out its 24-hour Chinese movie channel, Celestial Movies, in Malaysia and Brunei on March 3, with launches in other territories around the world to follow over the coming year.
The channel will be carried on Malaysian satellite platform Astro, which is majority owned by Celestial's backer, Malaysian media empire Usaha Tegas. Following its launch in Malaysia, the channel will be rolled out in Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan over the next six months with the US, Europe and Australia to follow within a year.
About 30% of the channel's content will be sourced from the 760-title Shaw Brothers library, which Celestial acquired three years ago, while acquisitions will account for the remaining 70%. Among the product Celestial has licensed is a portion of the Golden Harvest library, owned by Warner Bros, which includes around 170 titles produced in the 1990s - several of which star Jackie Chan.
"We want to make it clear that this isn't a classic movies channel or a Shaw Brothers channel, but a Chinese movie channel," said Celestial CEO William Pfeiffer.
Celestial also has output deals with the mainland's two largest studios, Beijing Film Studio and Shanghai Film Studio, and first-run deals with Hong Kong production houses Applause Pictures, EMG and Filmko; Taiwan's Central Motion Picture Corp; Korea's Cinema Service and CJ Entertainment and Japanese studios Shochiku and Toho. The company is also buying individual titles such as mainland feature Cala, My Dog! which screened in the Forum section at this year's Berlin Film Festival.
Celestial is in the process of digitally restoring the Shaw Brothers library and has so far released about 20 titles across Asia on DVD. Some of the titles have also been re-released in theatres in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Pfeiffer added that Celestial still intends to co-produce with Asian production houses. The company planned a large slate of productions last year but failed to greenlight any because of weak market conditions: "Last year was a bad year for Hong Kong, but the market is much more buoyant now."