So far the killer virus that has recently hit Hong Kong doesn't appear to be affecting production. Several studios, encouraged by the growing potential of the mainland market, are continuing to line up busy production slates for the coming months.

Universe International Holdings plans to put into production at least four films over the next three months, in addition to the two it already has shooting.

Heading the slate is action drama The Eyes Can Tell (working title) to be directed by renowned Hong Kong action director Benny Chan (Big Bullet, Gen-X Cops).

Leon Lai, Ekin Cheng and Karena Lam are lined up to star in the $4m film which will be Chan's first as director since Gen-Y Cops in 2000. Production is scheduled to start this month in Hong Kong and Thailand.

Meanwhile Universe is also planning a raft of co-productions with Chinese studios in an attempt to access the huge mainland market. Principal photography recently wrapped on romantic comedy My Dream Girl, a co-production with China's Shanxi Film Studio, which also stars Cheng and rising mainland star Vicky Zhao.

The film, a modern-day My Fair Lady, is produced and scripted by Chan Hing-Ka (La Brassiere, Mighty Baby) and directed by Raymond Yip.

Cheng and the same director-producer team are also lined up to shoot Anna And Shaolin for Universe and a Chinese partner starting in June. The female lead this time round will be popular Hong Kong actress Miriam Yeung. Meanwhile Raymond To is attached to shoot mainland-set costume comedy Miss To, also in June, starring Michelle Reis, Daniel Wu and Lydia Sum.

Universe is also developing a sequel to Dante Lam's 2001 action title Hit Team. Lam will again direct and Aaron Kwok is attached to star in the film which is also scheduled to start shooting in June. In addition, production started last week on Conman 2003, the latest instalment in producer Wong Jing's gambling series, this time starring Sam Lee.

According to Universe chairman Daneil Lam, the company hopes to find Chinese co-production partners for as many pictures on its slate as possible.

"China's distribution infrastructure is improving and we're getting more money back from that market - both from theatrical distribution and video sales," said Lam.

Full co-productions with Chinese studios are classified as domestic films by the Chinese authorities and are therefore not subject to import quotas. At present, co-productions have to be filmed entirely on the mainland, although the authorities appear to be relaxing their rules regarding locations.