Divine Dragon sets plexes

Changchun, Poly Group join forces for $3.6 mil venture

SHANGHAI — China’s new-found friendship between big business and the big screen deepens this month with the formation of the Oriental Divine Dragon Film Company. The company’s investors are two of the biggest stars from the film and telecommunications industries.

Changchun Film Studio –the biggest filmmaking facility in China, with an annual output of about 30 movies — is teaming up with the Poly Group Corporation to form a new film business with a registered capital of 30 million yuan (around US$3.6 million).

Poly Group Corporation was at one time one of the commercial wings of the People’s Liberation Army and spotlighted by international media in the mid-’90s for a series of high-profile international arms deals. These days it is better known as one of the country’s major telecommunications and property developers.

According to a recent report in the China Daily, Oriental Divine Dragon is slated for involvement in multiplex construction in 10 Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. The government is keen to promote such deals this year following a recent series of ambitious claims for cinema construction, including an announcement during last month’s Changchun Film Festival by Zhang Pimin, vice-bureau chief at the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, that China would build 100 digital cinemas within the next few years.

The new acceptance of big business investment is part of a wider trend in Chinese politics. Private entrepreneurs have only recently been allowed to join the Communist Party, and there are hints that this year they may be written into the national constitution alongside workers and peasants, officially classified as “managerial workers.”

Oriental Divine is the second major film-business collaboration in as many years. Last September, the China Movie Group (CMG) finalized plans for the Century Hero Movie Investment Company, a joint venture with China Trust Culture & Sports Industries Co., the latter a subsidy of one of China’s biggest financial bodies, China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC).

Century Hero was expected to become the second distributor of international movie imports — breaking up China Film Group’s monopoly on the industry — but the fact that CMG was itself a part owner shuttered that plan. However, Century Hero remains China’s largest privately owned movie and TV studio, and boasts Chen Kaige (“Farewell My Concubine”) as its art director.

“The deal showed that we recognize the importance of the culture industries in China,” a CITIC spokesman says, “and the huge potential for growth that they represent.”

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