Emperor Group CEO Gordon Chan is to put his directing career on hold while he powers up the wealthy Hong Kong company's $100m drive into film.

Chan and Emperor president Albert Yeung plan to develop a slate of quality Asian movies that play well in both Asia and the international markets. "The reason I am here is that Albert Yeung shares my vision of the film business. Our goal is to build a company that has an impact in Asia and internationally - especially in the US," said Chan.

The company expects to make a huge splash with The Highbinders, an action adventure tale with Jackie Chan attached to star. With a budget of $40m, the project is believed to be the most expensive ever financed out of Hong Kong. Production is scheduled for September next year in Australia and Emperor is currently scouting for an English-language director.

Emperor is also readying its first non-Hong Kong Asian production: Ito Junji's Kakashi: Village Of Scarecrows, a Japanese horror flick by director Norio Tsuruta, and is in negotiations to bring on board a picture from Thailand. Although Emperor expects to become involved in some 26 films in its first two years, Chan said he will take things slowly: "I'm in absolutely no hurry to announce further projects before next year. The history of Hong Kong film-making is not a good benchmark. We are interested instead on building a line of quality pictures," said Chan.

He added: "In order to keep a control on quality, especially in the early days we expect to fully finance all the pictures we make from Hong Kong. In the case of others we will probably co-produce."

Chan also said the company will maximise its production investment by building a pan-Asian distribution network and a strong marketing division. "These are the real strengths of the Hollywood system," said Chan, who aims to open a US sales and distribution office in Los Angeles as soon as next year.

To reflect the growing emphasis on contemporary content, Chan and Yeung now plan to change the company name from Emperor Film Group to Emperor Multi Media Group, and aim to produce video products, animated pictures and games as well as live-action films.

In recent years Chan has chiefly directed for the Media Asia and China Star combines. His most recent two projects are 2000 AD for Media Asia and Okinawa Rendezvous for China Star