Start-up Hong Kong studio Celestial Pictures has lined up some of the territory's hottest talent for its debut production slate including local box office sensations Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng and acclaimed director Stanley Kwan.

The company has signed a co-production deal with Lau's Teamwork Motion Pictures, to kick off with $5m romantic adventure Killing Me With Love. The film will star Lau as a cop who becomes involved with the widow of a murder victim. Production is scheduled to start at the end of this month with Andrew Lau (no relation) directing.

Next up for the fledgling studio is action film Naked Weapon - a co-production between Celestial and East Asia Entertainment, a division of eSun Holdings which owns Media Asia - which is due to start shooting next month. Hot action choreographer Ching Siu-Tung, whose credits include Zhang Yimou's Hero and Hong Kong mega-hit Shaolin Soccer, is set to direct with Maggie Q heading the cast. Media Asia is handling sales for all territories outside Asia.

Kwan, whose credits include dramas Lan Yu and The Island Tales, will direct Cheng in As Pretty As Rose, a love story set in Hong Kong in the 1960s. Ekin Cheng and Carina Lau are also attached to the project which is scheduled to start shooting in August.

Celestial has also been hoovering up product for its planned Chinese-language movie channel, Celestial Cinema, which is due to launch across Asia this autumn. Amongst other deals, the company has signed five-year output agreements with Chinese studios, Shanghai Film Studio and Shanghai Paradise, which include all library titles in addition to new productions.

Celestial was launched last year with backing from Malaysian media empire Usaha Tegas. It owns the 760-title Shaw Brothers library and is screening four of the titles at Cannes.