Lau will direct martial-arts Chan script

Expanding its push into local-language pics, Twentieth Century Fox will produce helmer Andrew Lau’s martial-arts film “Gold Bandits” in China.

Gordon Chan script follows an ancient imperial transportation company that teams with bandits to complete an impossible mission. With production skedded for June or July, casting has yet to be finalized.

“Bandits” is a co-production of Fox, Beijing’s Ciwen Digital Oriental Film & TV Production and Fortune Star Entertainment, part of News Corp.’s Star TV offshoot in Hong Kong.

Producers are Ciwen’s Ma Zhong-jun and Fortune Star’s Peter E. Poon.

Helmer Lau is half of the Hong Kong duo responsible for the hit “Infernal Affairs” franchise.

Ciwen will handle all rights in China except homevid; Fortune Star will oversee distribution in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, India and Southeast Asia. Fox will handle pic in remaining territories.

Significantly, Fox also will handle video and DVD release in mainland China, where it last month established a joint-venture home entertainment operation with local specialist Zoke Culture. As part of that initiative, Fox also committed to produce local movies for all-media release in China and possible video distribution outside the region.

“Co-financing ‘Gold Bandits’ is part of the studio’s country-by-country strategy to align ourselves with credible third-party producers, in this case Ciwen and Fortune Star, to create distribution partnerships that begin locally, spread regionally and ultimately reach film audiences worldwide,” said Fox senior VP of acquisitions Tony Safford.

First project, announced recently, was Kelvin Tong’s action thriller “Rule Number One,” to be produced by Fortune Star with Singapore’s Boku Films and Innoform Media.

Ciwen has a long track record producing TV series in China, including “Legend of Arching Hero” and “Sky Lovers.” Tsui Hark-helmed “Seven Swords” was its first feature film.

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