China Star Entertainment has fleshed out its ambitious One Hundred Years Of Film production project, through which it plans to invest $150m a year in Asian production in a bid to woo local audiences back to Hong Kong films.
The company - which announced at the AFM that it would produce 100 films over three years - remains committed to production expansion despite the collapse of its web-casting joint venture with Hong Kong's Lai Sun Hotels International.
A slew of leading Hong Kong directors have recently joined the Hundred Years project, including Gordon Chan, Lawrence Ah Mon, Dante Lam, Fruit Chan, Wai Ka Fai, Jo Cheung, Ching Sing Wai, Derek Yee, Ann Hui, Derek Chiu, Wilson Yip, Ching Siu Tung and Yuen Wo Ping. They join previously announced talent such as Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnnie Ho.
Stressing that only China Star's strongest films will carry the Hundred Years label, chairman Charles Heung said that a range of incentives will be offered to the collection's key talent. These are likely to include a stake in the Hundred Years company, revenue shares and the establishment of a Chinese talent school spanning the disciplines of screenwriting, directing and acting.
With budgets reportedly ranging up to $10m, China Star is likely to bring in outside financing. One example of its recent ventures in this direction is its plan to launch a co-branded movie channel with the Yahoo! Internet portal. China Star will provide content while Yahoo! contributes technical resources. The channel, to be launched in July, will experiment with programming ranging from feature films to shorts and made-for-the-web fare. A China Star television channel is already up and running in mainland China and the company has plans to expand it into Hong Kong and Taiwan this year and by next year into Singapore and Malaysia.
Heung said that China Star would also step up development of small cinema complexes in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the region. These are likely to be equipped with digital video screening facilities.
In December last year, China Star and Lai Sun unveiled a 55:45 joint venture, China Star WebTV.com, which was to buy and distribute 400 features sourced through China Star. Under a revised agreement Lai Sun is expected to now simply licence programme rights offered through China Star I-content in a three-year deal. China Star is now expected to repay a $7.8m (HK$61m) deposit to Lai Sun.