China takes stock in studio

SHANGHAI — In a historic development, China has for the first time allowed a film and television company to go public.

CCTV’s Wuxi Taihu TV/Film production base was recently listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

The listed company, Wuxi Zhongshi Co. Ltd., is made up of five partners — all subsidiaries of China Central TV. They are Wuxi Taihu Film/TV City, China Intl. TV Corp. (CITV), Beijing Yingping Auto Rental Co., Beijing Zhongshi Hi-Technology TV Development Co. and Beijing Weilai Advertising Co.

The company had an initial offer of 47.75 million shares at 7.95 yuan ($1) per share. The stock opened on the Shanghai Stock Exchange on June 16 at 20.10 yuan per share ($2.52) and analysts expect a per-share profit of 0.38 yuan (4¢) for 1997.

The move marks a highly symbolic shift in the history of Chinese film and television, and begs the question: Is the Communist leadership willing to relinquish its tight grip on media and give shareholders the power to decide what China’s 1.2 billion people watch on TV?

The answer is certainly not yet. But this experimental step may one day be seen as a key turning point.

Money raised from the issue will be used to purchase Wuxi Taihu’s “Outlaws of the Marsh” attraction and to invest in a major TV series “Lin Zexu,” based on a historical figure.

Wuxi Zhongshi plans to turn the Taihu complex, which was built with an investment of about one billion yuan ($125 million), into a major tourist attraction.

The complex was hit by scandal earlier in 1997 when Jin Guoxing, the development office’s vice director, was arrested for accepting 300,000 yuan ($28,000) in bribes from building contractors.

Wuxi, in Jiangsu Province, is about 2 hours from Shanghai.

CCTV opens third base

In a related development, CCTV has opened its third production base in Weihai, Shandong Province, aimed at providing a backdrop specifically for children’s programming.

Big Pinwheel Garden, the first phase of the Weihai Film & TV Base, opened May 31. The second and third phase of the base will be completed in three years. CCTV has one other production base in Zhuozhou.

The three studios are part of CCTV’s plan to become a world-class TV power by 2000.

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