Chengtian emerging as a player

Chinese production outfit riding Woo's 'Cliff'

One of the most significant emerging players in the Chinese production arena is Chengtian Entertainment, a talent agency cum production firm that numbers itself among the backers of Asia’s most expensive pic, John Woo’s “Red Cliff.”

Chengtian is also in the credits of the forthcoming “The Warlords,” Peter Chan’s latest war epic with Asian thesps Jet Li, Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro.

Chengtian prexy Zhuang Liqi, who used to be Shanghai general manager of China Intl. TV, believes the Chinese biz is still in its infancy and can be expected to evolve, just like Hollywood did.

“We invest in pictures like ‘Red Cliff’ because we need opportunities for our clients and because most (Chinese) production companies are very small. In the future, the system will evolve, and producers and agents will become more separate,” he says.

It’s not just big films. In February this year, Chengtian launched a slate of movies — called “New City Cinema” — to reflect the realities of China’s rapidly changing urban environment. Hoping to emulate the success of Warner China Film HG’s “Crazy Stone,” the project involves low-cost pics shot in different parts of China by different helmers.

Chengtian was founded by the telecom entrepreneur and current chairman Wu Kebo, who started the company with a strategic investment from Avex, Japan’s No. 2 music company. Avex is best known as a J-pop music label, but it is looking to expand in China and elsewhere in Asia. In its bid to turn itself into an all-round entertainment house in Asia, Chengtian is a key element.

In September 2006, Avex bought 20% of Chengtian and set up a joint venture in Beijing called Avex China. Avex’s investment in Chengtian is worth $36 million.

The holding company also controls companies under the Beijing Chengtian label devoted to artist management, TV and film production, music production and musical production.

Also involved is veep Wang Jinghua, who joined from Huayi Brothers and who heads up the group’s talent agency, Chengtian Shiba, which reps stars like Xia Yu (“The Painted Veil”) and Hu Jun (“Everlasting Regret”), as well as Hong Kong stars Tony Leung Ka-fai and Carina Lau.

The Chengtian people are highly visible at film fests and have been meeting execs in Hollywood and other centers.

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