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Berlin: Distribution Workshop Regains Independence From China’s Bona (EXCLUSIVE)

Distribution Workshop, one of Asia’s leading film sales companies, is to regain its independence after a period of control by China’s Bona Film Group.

DW founders Jeffrey Chan and Nansun Shi have increased their shareholding in the company from 49% to 60% following a new share issue that injected additional capital into the company and which diluted Bona down to a 40% minority position.

The move paves the way for Hong Kong-based DW to expand its activities beyond simple sales representation and into production and finance, further into mainland Chinese cinema and potentially into other fields such as television, licensing and ancillaries. The expansion may require the company to launch a further round of fundraising.

Chan has no plans to relinquish his role within NASDAQ-listed Bona, where he is currently COO reporting to Bona’s founder, chairman and CEO Yu Dong.

DW expects to retain the right of first refusal on film projects that are controlled by Bona.

A former Bona board director, Shi is one of Asia’s highest-profile producers with credits including “Infernal Affairs” and the “Detective Dee” franchise. In Berlin this week, she will be a key speaker at the Bridging the Dragon conference on Feb. 10.

“This is a winning situation for all concerned as it keeps all the connections in place, while giving DW the extra degree of freedom to operate and be entrepreneurial in new areas,” said Chan.

Shi and Chan are credited as producers on “In the Room,” a “La Ronde”-like high concept erotic drama that is directed by Singapore’s Eric Khoo. Given its subject matter, the picture, which is now in post-production, has little chance of a release in mainland China and is financed independently of Bona.

At Berlin, DW is screening “The Taking of Tiger Mountain,” Tsui Hark’s 3D war action-adventure that Bona released for a gross of $141 million. Other Bona titles on its EFM slate include Derek Yee’s “The Swordmaster” and “The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom,” with Fan Bingbing in the title role.

A sales and production veteran with years of prior experience at Media Asia, Chan was instrumental in setting up the English-language remake of Bona’s police espionage thriller “Overheard” as part of the initial slate of Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8. He and Bona are also part of the production mix behind the recently announced Ang Lee effort “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.”

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