Encouraged by the new crop of pay-TV channels about to hit Hong Kong, local producer Mei Ah Entertainment is expanding its film production slate and ploughing an additional $13m-$26m (HK$100m-HK$200m) into television production.

According to Mei Ah managing director Patrick Tong, the company will produce another 11 features by the end of March 2001 to add to the nine that it has already produced so far this year.

Upcoming features include La Vie En Perfect, to be directed by Cha Chuen-yee which is scheduled for a November release, and Girl Made Of Glass, from newcomer Lai Miu-suet. Past productions include Lawrence Ah Mon's Spacked Out, about teenage girls on the margins of society, and romance Juliet In Love, starring Sandra Ng and Francis Ng, which will screen at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

Mei Ah also plans to step up production of TV programming. Tong said the company has sufficient capital for expansion as it had cash on hand of $4m (HK$30m) at the end of March this year and a debt ratio of less than 10%.

The company's production drive has been prompted by the prospect of new distribution outlets. In July, the Hong Kong authorities awarded five pay-TV licences in a long-awaited move to open the local subscription television market to competition. Among companies that will operate the new channels are the UK's Yes Television, Hong Kong's Star TV and Galaxy Satellite Broadcasting, China's Hong Kong Network TV and Taiwan's Pacific Digital Media.

Mei Ah also plans to evaluate the worth of its 1,500-title library and expand the catalogue by acquiring further movie copyrights.

"The box office receipts for some of our films may not be spectacular, but we expect the video release to be profitable," said Charlene Lai, head of Mei Ah's distribution arm Cameron Entertainment. Juliet In Love grossed HK$3m at the Hong Kong box office and Spacked Out made HK$2m.