HONG KONG — A Mandarin-language movie channel with a very old secret weapon has just set up in Hong Kong.
That’s not a reference to Celestial Pictures’ new CEO, industry veteran William Pfeiffer who is joining the company after nine years as managing director of Sony Pictures’ Columbia TriStar Intl. Television for Asia. It’s actually a description of the Shaw Brothers’ film library, a treasure-trove of 760 Hong Kong classics that Celestial acquired in March 2000 and has since spent $15 million digitally remastering. Most of the films have not been available to audiences after their initial theatrical release.
The movie channel is a swerve into the Chinese movie market for Celestial’s owner, Malaysian conglom Usaha Tegas and its owner, tycoon Ananda Krishnan. The firm also owns Malaysian mobile telephone player Maxis and Malaysian satcaster Astro, which earlier this year withdrew its planned investment in Galaxy, a fledgling Hong Kong pay TV player owned by dominant terrestrial channel TVB.
Krishnan has his heart set on creating a pan-Asian media conglomerate and sees the Chinese market as key. Competition in the Chinese TV market is heating up, with companies including Sun Television Cybernetworks, TVB, Hong Kong film distributor Mei Ah, and Hong Kong cable player I-Cable all rolling out Mandarin-language programming.