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AFM: Producer Bill Kong Has ‘Monster’ Year

The scion of a theater-owning family, Bill Kong has long had a reputation for being a shrewd businessman who carefully watches the pennies, but never loses sight of the big picture.

Deeply rooted in the commercial — sometimes brutal — Hong Kong industry, Kong has also been a pioneer in China, as producer, distributor and exhibitor.

With these strengths and his publicity-shy, down-to-business approach, Kong has been a key go-between for the U.S. and Chinese industries for a couple of decades.

He sealed his reputation as one of Asia’s top producers with his involvement in Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” which was not only a record-breaker at the U.S. box office, but was also a complicated multinational co-production involving Chinese, Hong Kong and American companies.

More big films followed: Jet Li pics “Hero” and “Fearless,” plus Lee’s “Lust, Caution” among them.

If the past few years have been slightly less bountiful for Kong as a producer — he was busy building his Broadway exhibition chain into China, and launched a movie channel in Hong Kong — this year he has been able to answer his critics in the best possible way, at the box office.

Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “Wolf Totem” was a Chinese New Year hit that scored $110 million in China.

Then came “Monster Hunt,” pictured. Kong’s Edko banner produced the hit directed by Hong Kong-born “Shrek” creator Raman Hui in his first live-action outing, and working with a very substantial budget of $56 million. “Monster Hunt” became the biggest film of all time in China, with a gross of $390 million.

While Hui and Kong are now inevitably in the “Monster Hunt” sequels business, it is unlikely that Kong will take his eye off all the other balls he is juggling.

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