Shaw Brothers, once the largest film production company in Asia, is poised to make a comeback under a new plan unveiled by Hong Kong’s leading TV broadcaster to spread its tentacles in filmmaking.
Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), which owns Shaw Brothers, last week revealed seven new film projects which it is to co-produce with Hong Kong and mainland Chinese film companies.
Partner firms include Media Asia and Mega-Vision Project Workshop. Hong Kong directors including Wong Jing and Lawrence Cheng Tan-shui will be involved in the projects.
At the event at FilMart, TVB said filmmaking would be a core part of its business and it would “continue Shaw Brothers’ tradition of producing quality products.” Its combined investments in the seven pictures, was estimated by TVB executive Virginia Lok Yee-ling as at least HK$100 million (US$13 million).
Founded in the 1920s, Shaw Brothers produced about 900 films before ceasing production in the mid-1980s amid fierce competition from its biggest rival Golden Harvest.
After that, it focused on the TV industry through its then subsidiary TVB. The company, once headed by the late Sir Run Run Shaw, was later back in business making a few films and built new studios in Kowloon’s Tseun Kwan O district, but the scale of film production was minimal. Today, Shaw Brothers is wholly owned by TVB.
TVB’s move to broaden its presence in feature film world comes at a time when its TV heyday is behind it. For decades, it has played a vital role in shaping Hong Kong’s entertainment industry, being the breeding ground for some of the most respected film figures including Wong Kar-wai, Johnnie To, Chow Yun-fat and Tony Leung, who all started their career at TVB.
With its main free-to-air rival, Asia Television, close to bankruptcy, TVB enjoys healthy advertising revenues but is criticised as too conservative and lacking creativity.
It enjoyed recent movie success as a minority investor in “From Vegas to Macau II”, the Mega Vision-produced Hong Kong gambling comedy which has grossed over HK$1 billion (US$129 million) globally.
The seven new titles include “From Vegas to Macau III”, and “Line Walker,” the feature version of a TVB crime thriller series released in 2014. Other titles are to be confirmed.