Chinese company draws on $30 million loan
China’s Enlight Media has unveiled an ambitious three-year slate of 40 pics for its distrib and production unit Enlight Pictures.Enlight, one of the top three private entertainment congloms in the country, is emerging as an aggressive player in the Chinese movie landscape. Its new slate of pics will be partly financed with a loan of $30 million from the Bank of Beijing. Enlight Media prexy Wang Changtian noted that he expects the company’s box office take to grow from 100 million yuan ($15 million) last year to $45 million. Next year, he’s hoping for $105 million, which Wang said would account for more than 10% of the whole China film market, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, and more than 20% of the domestic market. The company wants to encourage closer cooperation between distributors, producers, cinemas and media to promote films — and it welcomes input from foreign investors and film companies. “As a distributor, we want to share the Chinese film market with cinema chains and producers. As a film company, we’d like to share the Chinese market with overseas film companies,” said Enlight Pictures prexy Zhang Zhao, speaking in the run-up to the Shanghai Film Festival, which kicked off Saturday. Last year, Enlight borrowed $15 million from the Bank of Beijing, which it used to grow its business, and paid the money back three months early. This year’s loan will “help Enlight Media become China’s largest private film investment and distribution company,” Wang said. As a signal of intent, Enlight has signed up Hong Kong helmer Gordon Chan as chief consultant. Zhang told a news conference in Beijing about his dream of transforming the company into a major studio along the lines of the Hollywood model. Enlight’s slate for this year, either as investor, producer or distributor, includes Benny Chan’s “Entire City on Red Alert,” which started lensing in Hong Kong last month and features Shu Qi and Zhang Jingchu. Produced by Stephen Lam, Zhang said he hoped it would be a “truly Chinese sci-fi action movie.” Gordon Chan is helming an adaptation of one of the stories in the “Strange Tales of Liao Zhai,” a collection of classical Chinese tales. Pic will have a budget of $15 million and Chan said the story was being scripted now and details on casting would follow. Then there is Andrew Lau’s “Ye xing xia chen zhen,” produced by Gordon Chan and starring Donnie Yen, in which Enlight is teaming up with Universe film in Hong Kong. Also on the slate is the U.S.-Japanese co-production of Japanese toon “Astro Boy,” which is set for an Oct. 23 release after a raft of financing hiccups. Summit will distrib the pic in the U.S. Chan will direct “Shen qi si xia,” which Zhang said is like a Chinese version of “Fantastic Four.” Bill Kong will produce. The slate also features Raymond Wong’s “All’s Well End’s Well 2010,” Dante Lam’s “Arrow,” “Magic Soldier and Junior General,” helmed by Tony Wong, and the adaptation of the martial arts novel “Four Famous Detectives.” The group’s market ambitions suffered a setback last year after a $160 million deal to merge with Nasdaq-listed mobile music producer and distributor Hurray Holding failed to materialize. Earlier this week, Hurray agreed to sell a majority stake to online gamesmaker Shanda Interactive Entertainment in a deal valued at $46.2 million. Established in 2006, Enlight has a library of more than 50,000 hours of content and its TV business includes some of China’s biggest skeins. Among its other businesses are TV programming, talent management, marketing and advertising, although its core remains investing in film and distribution. Enlight Pictures has marketing headquarters, regional offices and marketing representatives in 30 cities and 400 employees.