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Tall in the straddle

Hong Kong-based, China state-owned Sil-Metropole wields its co-production power

Sil-Metropole Organization seems to have the best of both worlds.

It’s a Hong Kong-registered company that also has state-owned studio status in China, which makes it a no-brainer for co-productions.

This straddling of Hong Kong and China is etched into the company’s history.  

After World War II, Shanghai filmmakers moved to Hong Kong and set up shop. Four of these companies — Great Wall Movie Enterprises, Feng Huang Motion Pictures Co., Sun Luen Film Co. and Chung Yuen Motion Picture Co. — were highly influential in the early 1950s. They were known as “left-wing” and often made idealistic movies that were social commentaries.

Few were of the kung fu genre, but the collective library does include “Shaolin Temple” and “Kids From Shaolin.” 

After China’s Cultural Revolution in the mid-1970s, the Chinese audience largely dried up. In 1982, the four companies decided to merge and became today’s Sil-Metropole.

While Sil-Metropole is a Hong Kong-registered company with an island office of around 50 people, it is managed by the Chinese government. “We need to report to them,” says Shirley Yeung, public relations manager.

The former general manager of the company, who is now retired, was also a deputy officer of the China Film Bureau. In addition, the company is given the same status as a mainland China state-owned studio, allowing it to be the Chinese partner on co-productions.

Its portfolio ranges from co-productions to distribution, as well as TV series and operating a Hong Kong studio and theater.

Sil-Metropole typically works on more than 10 co-productions a year as the Chinese partner, Yeung says. Its most recent projects are the upcoming “Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon,” which stars Andy Lau and Maggie Q, and “Confession of Pain” with Hong Kong’s Media Asia, Japan’s Avex and China’s PolyBona.

It also produces its own projects and is planning two or three for this year, Yeung says. One of the projects is Ma Li Wen’s “Tao Hua Yuen” (The Fate of the Blossom). The HK$10 million ($1.3 million) pic will begin shooting in China in April with stars Ge You and Fan Bin Bin.

While its arthouse theater, Cine-Art, closed late last year, the company still owns and operates the Silver Theater in Kwun Tong, Hong Kong, which it has had since 1963 under one of the original four companies.

Clearwater Bay Studio, owned by the conglom, is used by free-to-air broadcaster ATV to produce its TV series. Sil-Metropole also has TV series of its own. It just completed two of them for second-half ’07 release. One is historical while the other is a modern-day drama set in Hong Kong. They will be released in China and Hong Kong, Yeung says.

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