John Woo, Goldman Boost Hong Kong Movies as China Opens Market
Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- People's Liberation Army trucks rumble to a stop on a potholed road two hours from Beijing, then disgorge more than 100 troops back into the third century.
They are warriors in Hong Kong director John Woo's new Mandarin-language film ``Red Cliff'' -- the most expensive Asian movie ever. The $70 million epic about the battle that created China's Three Kingdoms is the first film Woo has directed in China since he headed to the U.S. to make hits such as ``Mission: Impossible II.''
Hong Kong's movie industry, which gave Bruce Lee his start but lost out to Hollywood in the 1990s, is booming again after new trade rules provided access to the mainland. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Standard Chartered Plc are bankrolling Hong Kong filmmakers to tap the Chinese market, which the government estimates may grow 30 percent annually over the next decade.
``A Chinese movie of this budget would have been impossible a decade ago,'' says Woo, 61, stirring a bowl of rice vermicelli and poached egg before a night shoot. ``These days, it's easier to get funding for a movie aimed at the Chinese market.''
A 2005 trade accord gave Hong Kong movies free access to neighboring Guangdong province, which shares the Cantonese language with Hong Kong. In addition, films in which a third of the cast and crew are Chinese now qualify as co-productions under a program that guarantees they can be shown in Chinese theaters.
Ticket sales for Hong Kong films increased by about 40 percent to the equivalent of $133 million last year, says Liu Zhongyi, chief operating officer of chinacoproduction.com, a Chinese government-sponsored Web site providing information on joint-venture movies.