TAIPEI — A political storm is brewing over news that Taiwan’s biggest and oldest studio, where Ang Lee made “The Wedding Banquet” and “Eat Drink Man Woman,” is being shuttered by its new owners.
The China Times Group, which acquired the Central Motion Pictures Corp. from Taiwan’s government in December, has closed the printing lab and soundstages, and the production unit looks likely to follow.
Sale is in keeping with the government’s policy of separating politics, military and the media. But CMPC employees say privatization was not in the studio’s best interests, and speculation rages that China Times wanted the studio only as a real estate play.
Solons are probing the sale to see whether CMPC was sold at fair market value.
“Once the studio shuts down, it will have a major impact on the motion picture community,” said Peggy Chou, head of the Government Information Office, Taiwan’s film industry regulator.
Management has offered little comment. One company topper said: “We’re in the process of downsizing. At this point, it’s difficult to say what direction CMPC will go in.”
CMPC was sold to the publishing group in a package with terrestrial broadcast net China Television Co. (CTV) and radio operator the Broadcasting Corp. of China (BCC).
Taiwan’s Chinese Nationalist Party received $121 million for its 50% interest in CMPC and 97% holding in BCC. China Times also assumed $160 million in debt.
CMPC, which has existed under various names since 1943, owns soundstages, while its exhibition arm runs two movie theaters in Taipei and its extensive library contains some of the island’s seminal pics. Stages and backlot also double as a theme park.
CMPC’s production arm has recently been involved with TV productions but has no movies projects on its books.
Venerable studio has been home to productions by helmers including Edward Yang, Tsai Ming-liang and Hou Hsiao-hsien.