Hong Kong's Golden Harvest is setting up a joint venture with mainland entertainment conglomerate, China Film Group Corporation, to co-finance and distribute Chinese-language films.

The new venture, which is expected to be operational early next year, intends to finance films produced by mainland production companies and distribute them both in China and overseas.

Golden Harvest currently owns distribution operations and cinemas in three Chinese-speaking markets - Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore - and plans to enter Asia's remaining Chinese market through the acquisition of Warner Village in Taiwan. The company also has an international sales department which is overseen by distribution chief Teerachai Triwongwaranat.

China Film is the mainland's dominant film distributor and, until the launch of Huaxia Film Distribution earlier this year, held a monopoly on the distribution of imported films.

In a statement, the two parties said the joint venture would capitalise on the strengths of both organisations for the long-term development of the Chinese-language film business. It also aims to raise the standards of domestic distribution in China and - via Golden Harvest - expand the market for Chinese productions overseas.

The new venture will also examine co-financing opportunities in order to find new sources of finance for up-and-coming mainland filmmakers.

"Golden Harvest has many years of experience in producing and distributing Chinese-language films. With this new joint venture, we will be able to leverage on their expertise in Hong Kong and South-East Asia," said China Film president Yang Buting.

Golden Harvest was once Hong Kong's most prolific studio, but has recently switched strategy to finance films from other producers in return for distribution rights across the region.