Ambitious plans for a new film studio complex in Hong Kong could be under threat as three investors in the project - Hong Kong's Media Asia and Mei Ah Entertainment and Taiwan's Era Group - have decided to pull out.
A consortium of six companies, led by Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers, won government approval last September to build the $109m (HK$850m) "Movie City" complex in Tseung Kwan O, in the western part of Hong Kong. The site is to include studios, post-production facilities, specialist laboratories, recording studios and back lots and will be rented out to both film production and television broadcasting companies.
However, Media Asia, which held a 10% stake in Movie City, said it had decided to focus instead on plans by its parent company, eSun Holdings, to build TV studios in Macau. "We're consolidating our businesses and decided that this project didn't fit with our strategy, particularly as eSun is building its own facilities," said Media Asia vice chairman Nansun Shi.
According to eSun senior vice president Jimmy Ho, the company is investing around $38.5m (HK$300m) in the Macau studios which are scheduled to begin construction in the second quarter of this year. Although primarily a TV facility, servicing eSun's satellite channel - East Asia Satellite Television - the studios will be made available to other companies in the eSun group, including Media Asia.
The other two companies to withdraw from the Hong Kong project - Era, which held a 10% stake, and Mei Ah, which held just 0.5% - were not available for comment.
The remaining three investors - Shaw Brothers, the leading shareholder with 35%, China Star and Jing's Production - said they would press on with plans for Movie City. "The building plan has been filed with the government and we expect to start construction in the middle of this year," said Shaw Brothers financial controller Lawrence Lau.