Yu Dong, CEO of Bona Film

Chinese studio readies titles with Fox Int'l, Chow Yun-fat, Zhou Xun

HONG KONG — China’s Bona Film Group is to launch a $162 million (RMB1 billion) fund to boost its production efforts.

The Wuhu Bona Film Investment Management is understood to be the first of its kind in China and will see Sequoia Capital Investment and Gopher Asset Management, part of the U.S.’s Noah Holdings, committed as core investors. Bona itself will hold 30% of the equity of the fund.

Bona chairman and CEO Yu Dong said that the fund had been opened to investors in mid-August and was already significantly over-subscribed.

The launch of this fund “will greatly enhance our production capacity, enabling us to bring not only more, but higher quality film and television projects to audiences in China and abroad. It will significantly reduce the challenges and risks associated with individual project financing, allowing us to more effectively plan the timing of future releases and shorten the pre-production process,” said Yu in a statement.

The fund is expected to be used for productions starting in the next two years and will back pictures including “Tracks in the Snowy Forest,” “The Third Master’s Sword” and “Moscow Mission,” the first title under Bona’s co-production deal with Fox International Productions.

On a conference call, Friday, Yu (pictured, center, with Catherine Zeta-Jonas and Chen Kun) added that the fund launch would allow the group to shift more of its financial resources to theater construction. Bona currently operates 20 multiplexes with a total of 153 screens. He said that construction on a further eight sites is either under way or now approved.

The Nasdaq-listed company Friday announced an increase in revenues and profits for the first half of the year. Second-quarter 2013 net revenues were $28.3 million vs. $20.7 million a year earlier. Net income attributable to Bona was $1.8 million vs. $500,000 last time.

In the last quarter Bona invested in and distributed three films, “Christmas Rose,” “Kuiba II” and “The Funeral Parlor,” and has since released action drama “Unbeatable,” earning over $17.9 million to date.

In the remainder of the year Bona will release “My Lucky Star,” starring Zhang Ziyi and Wang Leehom (Sept. 17); disaster film “Inferno 3D,” directed by Oxide and Danny Pang (Sept. 30); crime drama “The White Storm” (formerly “The Cartel War”), directed by Benny Chan; and U.S. action comedy “Red 2.”

The company’s production slate now includes corporate action film “Overheard 3,” co-directed by Alan Mak and Felix Chong and starring Zhou Xun, which is now in post-production; 3D martial arts epic “The White-Haired Witch,” directed by Jacob Cheung; crime drama “Sunspot,” directed by China’s Cao Baoping; and action drama “From Vegas to Macau,” starring Chow Yun-Fat, Nicholas Tse and Tian Jing.

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