The entire cinematic landscape has been reshaped in the years since Universe Entertainment Ltd. set up business three decades ago.
Back then, founder Daneil Lam’s idea was that video distribution was the way forward — and at that time, it must have pretty much looked like a safe bet that the Hong Kong film industry would continue to thrive, and continue to release around 300 titles per year.
How times have changed. The Hong Kong industry has slowed, topping out at around 50 releases a year while being eclipsed by its neighbor in China. Video, meanwhile, has gone the way of the dodo.
Among the keys to Universe’s success throughout the entertainment business’ radical changes has been Lam and his team’s ability to adapt to market needs, and to find the right talent to work with. That has been evidenced since the early days of Universe’s involvement in feature films — with productions such as the Stephen Chow-helmed comedy hit “Shaolin Soccer” (2001), through to the groundbreaking work of horror and fantasy maestros Danny and Oxide Pang and the likes of “Re-Cycle” (2006) and “The Storm Warriors” (2009), and on to Benny Chan’s street-wise thrillers such as “The White Storm” (2013).
Universe general manager Alvin Lam says the secrets to the company’s longevity are simple.
“Dedication and determination, first and foremost, are the most important,” says Lam. “We think that making movies is about passion, and that pushes us away from staying on the same ground. Also, once we kick off a project, despite any hardship, we are determined to make it work and get it done to our best effort. Secondly, we love to work with different talented filmmakers. Without their trust and support, Universe couldn’t be successful.”
The company’s most recent success has been the Herman Yau-directed thriller “Shock Wave,” which knocked the biggest hit of the year in China so far, Hollywood actioner “The Fate of the Furious,” off its perch at the end of April, and after two weeks had an impressive $50 million in the bank, with an international rollout to follow.
“ ‘Shock Wave’ carries the essence of realism, intensity and pacing of a Hong Kong cop actioner and takes it to another level,” says Lam.
Universe has recently set up a branch in Beijing — under the China-Universe Matrix Century Films Distribution (Beijing) Co. Ltd. banner — and the company will soon release the latest effort from the Pang brothers with a working title of “Fraud Squad.”
“The film is shot mainly in China, our main cast members are highly popular Chinese actors and actresses, which serves the local China market perfectly, yet we are bringing the unique elements of Hong Kong cop action films to ‘Fraud Squad,’ ” explains Lam. “The pacing and direction of the film will be similar to Hong Kong-style action movies. It’s a groundbreaking trial for us, producing a film in China but with Hong Kong-style action elements. Universe shall continue to empower filmmakers to create movies in a typical Hong Kong style but with twist of contemporary elements.”