Duo form label for trio of Hong Kong action films

The Weinstein Co. is going into business with “24” producer Tony Krantz and “Infernal Affairs” co-director Andrew Lau for a trio of Hong Kong action pics.

Films, to be shot in English, will be the first titles on a new label Krantz and Lau are forming called Qi (pronounced “Chee”), through their Flame Ventures and Initial A banners that will seek to redefine the traditional chopsocky movie.

Krantz and Lau will produce the inaugural three films, while the Weinstein Co. will take worldwide theatrical and homevid rights. Flame Ventures’ Zack Sherman and Initial A’s Andrew Loo will co-produce.

Movies will be released Stateside via TWC homevid arm Genius and its Dragon Dynasty label. Pics could also get a theatrical release in the U.S.; a Weinstein Co. spokesman said that decision will be made as the movies move further into production.

Partnership between Qi and the Weinstein Co. also could be extended beyond the three pics, principles said.

Projects are expected to be among the first on a new $275 million Asian film fund the Weinstein Co. has launched and which Goldman Sachs will manage; the Weinstein Co. declined comment on whether these projects would be part of the fund.

Harvey Weinstein noted that he and Bob Weinstein “have always recognized and appreciated the artistic and commercial potential of Asian cinema” and also said he believed the projects could “help breathe new life into the martial arts genre.”

Movies on Qi will be driven more by plot and character than typical action fare, Krantz said. They also will seek to break out a new generation of action stars as members of the previous generation like Jet Li and Jackie Chan grow older.

Execs also said that the movies wouldn’t rely on wire work, the technique popularized by martial arts breakout “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” instead favoring more full-contact fighting. “We think we’re coming at this with a very different foundation than the typical Hong Kong action movie,” Krantz said.

First project is expected to go into production later this year, with execs now scouting for screenwriters in the U.S

Krantz is best known for his work in television but has been moving more toward the film world; he is one of the forces behind Warners homevid label Raw Feed, has directed the film “Sublime” for Raw Feed, and is set to direct the theatrical pic “American Voodoo” later this year.

Lau is best known for “Infernal Affairs,” the basis for “The Departed,” and also is attached to direct the Fox project “Gold Bandits.”

The Weinstein Co. has been investing in Asian cinema of late; Cannes opening film “My Blueberry Nights” by Wong Kar Wai and two pics in development — a live-action version of “Mulan” and a remake of “The Seven Samurai” — are all expected to be funded by the fund.

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