Gov't taps shingles as official production partners

BEIJING — Chinese production houses are generally large film groups owned and operated under the auspices of state-run media companies. In order to produce or distrib films in China, foreign players must partner with one of these groups, which then usually provides a percentage of a pic’s budget and guides it through the official censorship process. Depending on the group, it might also provide facilities and equipment for productions shooting locally and perhaps distribution.

Some of the major players follow:

China Film Group Corp.

China Film Group Corp. (CFG) is the country’s largest film distrib. CFG is state-owned and -run, in this case owned by China Media Group, the nation’s largest media conglomerate, which includes China Central Television and China National Radio, the largest TV and radio broadcasters, respectively.

CFG also operates one of only two authorized film importers in China, responsible for bringing in at least half of the 20 permitted foreign titles under the country’s film importation rules.

In late 2004, CFG began signing co-production deals with major foreign partners. Sony Entertainment signed such an agreement for television in December. Warner Bros. teamed with CFG to form Warner China Film HG Corp. in October.

In April 2004, CFG announced plans for the construction of a 60-acre film and TV facility near Beijing, with planned investment of just over $100 million, to be completed in 2007.

Shanghai Film and Television Group

Under the powerful and relatively progressive Shanghai Entertainment & Media Group (SMEG), Shanghai Film and Television Group (SFTG) has interests in production and distribution. It holds the majority stake in Shanghai’s United Film distribution and exhibition circuit, responsible for approximately 80% of the city’s yearly B.O. and 75% of its commercial screens.

SFTG also operates Shanghai Film Studios, one of the first such facilities created after the foundation of the People’s Republic in 1949; it has produced over 600 films.

In 2004, Shanghai Paradise Co., a SFTG subsid, signed an accord with Warner Bros Intl. Cinemas to create the Paradise Warner Cinema City, a nine-screen plex in Shanghai.

Changchun Film Group Corp.

Formerly Changchun Film Studio, Changchun Film Group Corp. is one of China’s oldest production centers, located in the northeastern province of Jilin.

Founded originally by the Japanese during their occupation of Manchuria, the studio was renamed in 1949. By the end of the 20th century, it had produced over 700 features, although almost all were patriotic/propaganda films.

Company is building a film studio theme park in its home city, first announced in 2003, with $120 million invested in it. That budget has since swelled to $181 million. The park is set to open this month.

Changchun Film Group is a shareholder in Huaxia Film Distribution, established in 2003 as a state-run competitor to China Film Group in the importation of foreign films.

The group is the founder and host of the China Changchun Film Festival, now in its seventh year.

Western Movie Group Corp.

Better known by its previous moniker, Xi’an Film Studio, Western Movie Group Corp. has produced and supported some of modern Chinese cinema’s top films and directors, including the late-’80s breakthrough “Red Sorghum” and helmer Zhang Yimou. Other directors to come out of the studio include Wu Tianming and Zhou Xiaowen.

Xi’an Film Studio remains an active co-producer of films and TV. In June, it signed an agreement with Singapore’s One Take Prods. to produce the first Singapore film to be shot in high definition.

Xiaoxiang Film Group

Formerly Hunan Film Studio, production house Xiaoxiang Film Group is based in the Hunan provincial capital of Changsha, and is still known to many by its previous name. Its catalog of over 100 features contains mostly propaganda films, due in part to Chairman Mao Zedong being the province’s favorite son.

Producers of film and television, studio is playing a more active role in domestic and foreign co-production, sometimes partnering with nearby Hunan Broadcast Group.

China Film Co-production Corp.

Formed specifically to facilitate joint venture production of films in China, China Film Co-production Corp. was founded in 1979. It co-produced in 1985 Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor,” which went on to win all nine Oscars for which it was nominated. It has participated in the co-production of other well-known Chinese films such as “Farewell, My Concubine,” “The Red Violin” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

Its role is specifically to assist foreign production companies in connecting with Chinese partners, including studios, production facilities and investment firms, and in handling shooting logistics and script approval.

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