Hong Kong entertainment giant Golden Harvest is understood to be in talks to acquire Taiwan's Warner Village - the joint exhibition venture between Warner Bros International Theatres (WBIT) and Australia's Village Roadshow.

If the acquisition goes ahead, it would provide Golden Harvest with the missing piece in its exhibition network throughout Asia's Chinese-speaking markets. The powerhouse distributor and exhibitor already operates around 215 screens in Hong Kong, mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore.

It's unclear whether Golden Harvest is in talks to buy out Warner Bros' share in Warner Village or acquire the whole company. WBIT has a strategy of developing underscreened territories and withdrawing once infrastructure is in place. However, Village has also been stepping back from overseas exhibition ventures - it recently sold its 50% stake in leading Korean cinema circuit CGV.

Golden Harvest managing director CK Phoon declined comment.

Warner Village, one of the few profitable cinema circuits in Taiwan, is unlikely to come cheap. It currently operates six sites in Taiwan including a 17-screen multiplex in Taipei and a 16-screen complex in Taiwan's second largest city, Kaohsiung. An additional 13-screen cinema is scheduled to open in the last quarter of 2003.

Once Hong Kong's most prolific studio, Golden Harvest has recently switched strategy to finance films from other producers in return for distribution rights across the region. It's currently the subject of takeover rumours itself - with several companies being named as interested buyers including Beijing-based Stellar Megamedia and Hong Kong's eSun Holdings.

In addition, Jackie Chan recently bought a 7% stake in Golden Harvest - prompting speculation that the Hong Kong star could play a greater role in the company that made most of his Chinese-language movies.

"I increased my stake in Golden Harvest because I have confidence in the company," Chan said at a recent press conference to announce his role as Hong Kong Film Ambassador. "I will spend more time in Asia making more films for this market, even though I will be going back to the US in December. I know that my roots are in Hong Kong and China and I won't be staying in the US forever."