Taiwan's oldest film company, the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), hasofficially closed its studio lots and once-popular theme park in northern Taipei marking the symbolic end of an era for local cinema.No recent films have shot at the studio lots, although Jay Chou's music videofor Jet Li's Fearless was recentlyfilmed there.

Of ongoing concern to localfilmmakers is the fate of the CMPC's post-production facilities, including oneof just two Dolby sound studios in Taiwan. For now, the company's senior sound technicians andeditors have been asked to remain in their jobs, although they are not taking onmajor projects at this time. Junior post-production staff have already resignedand taken severance pay.

The CMPC was founded by theruling KMT government in 1954. Officially founded in China in 1912, the KMT ruled Taiwan until 2000, at which time they were the richestpolitical party in the world with an estimated fortune of $6.5bn. Since then, much of their assets have beensold off, despite opposition claims that their properties belong to the nation.

On Dec 24 2005, publishing conglomerate China Times Group becamethe majority shareholder in the CMPC as part of a larger deal that included thesale of the KMT's television assets, China Television Co (CTV) and ChinaBroadcasting Corp of China (BCC) for $250m, prompted by a change in the lawdemanding that political parties divest their broadcasting interests. At thetime, angry CMPC staff stormed into the press conference announcing the deal.

The CMPC owns a library ofapproximately 250 titles that includes the early works of Hou Hsiao-hsien,Edward Yang, Tsai Ming-liang and Ang Lee. Hou and Wang Toon, chairman of theTaipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee, recently initiated a petitionto halt the sale of the CMPC. Under pressure from the local film industry, theKMT has been in negotiations with China Times Group to buy back the complete libraryor a selection of 80 key titles.

Before the change inownership, the CMPC was about to begin pre-production on three co-productionswith mainland China: a thriller by Li Shaohong, a family drama by Lee You-ning and apolitical biopic by Vivian Chang. Allthree projects are currently on hold.The CMPC's recently completed feature, Wu Hung-hsiang's Song Of Sprits, is looking foralternate distribution outside the CMPC.

CMPC still operates twomovie theatres in Taipei, one specialising in arthouse films. The international department is also stillopen for business, although it's not expected to attend key markets in thecoming months. The China Times Group is taking decisions about the future directionof the CMPC on a month-by-month basis, planning as far ahead as late May, atwhich time it is possible that more divisions of the business will be closed.

Former Head of InternationalSales, Jennifer Jao, left the CMPC on Monday after ten years in the job. Shewill continue in her four-year-old position as vice secretary general of theMotion Picture & Drama Association of the ROC, the representative body incharge of Taiwan's delegation to the Asia-Pacific Film Festival. InNovember, the 51st edition of the annual touring festival is expected to beheld in Taipei for the eighth time.