Bona unveils 26-picture slate, Huaxia deal

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Screen Daily
by Liz Shackleton

China’s Bona Film Group has unveiled an ambitious 26-picture slate to celebrate the company’s 15th anniversary, along with a strategic cooperation with Huaxia Film Distribution.

Bona Film Group founder and CEO Yu Dong said he expected the slate would gross a combined $1.6bn (RMB10bn) at the China box office. The slate announcement came just days after it emerged that Bona is trying to delist from the NASDAQ.

Speaking at the SIFF Forum on Monday, Yu Dong said it wasn’t surprising that he wanted to take his company private again because “my audience and customers are in China – coming home is the wish of all our investors and partners.”

Bona, which floated on New York’s NASDAQ exchange in 2010, currently has investors including Studio 8 backer Fosun International and private equity company Sequoia.

The company’s new slate includes Ang Lee’s previously announced Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which Bona is co-producing with Studio 8 and TriStar, along with a slew of new projects from leading Chinese producers and directors.

Martial arts action titles on the slate include fantasy Wulin Guaishou (lit trans: Martial Arts Monster), produced by Derek Yee and directed by Andrew Lau; Unparalleled, directed by Alan Mak and Felix Chong; Derek Yee’s previously-announced wuxia title Swordmaster, produced by Tsui Hark; and an as-yet-untitled project to be directed by Patrick Tam.

The slate also includes crime thrillers including Andrew Lau’s Chasing The Dragon, to be produced by Wong Jing; Red Spy from mainland filmmaker Ning Ying; and as-yet-untitled projects from Dante Lam, Gordan Chan and Benny Chan.

Dramas include new titles from Ann Hui, Huang Jianxin and Fifth Generation filmmaker Xia Gang, while comedies include Wong Jing’s From Vegas To Macau 3 and The Treasure, co-directed by Ronald Cheng and Gordon Chan. Mak Tai-kit is directing and Tsui Hark producing a suspense horror with the working title Catching Monkey.

Bona is also planning a stage adaptation of best-selling internet novel Ghost Blows Out The Lamp, which has already spawned two movie adaptations. Acclaimed theatre director Guan Haoyue will direct the stage version.

Bona also announced a strategic cooperation agreement with state-backed Huaxia Film Distribution under which the two companies will co-produce 3-5 films a year and distribute 5-8 films a year. The two companies will also cooperate on cinema construction and operation of theatres.

The slate and Huaxia deal were announced at a dinner celebrating Bona’s 15th anniversary, attended by leading producers and directors, Fosun chairman Guo Guangchang, Huaxia chairman Fu Ruoqing and stars including Simon Yam and Thailand’s Tony Jaa. Ang Lee sent a recorded message to congratulate the company.

Originally called Polybona, the company was one of the first in China to be issued with a distribution license and has since moved into production and cinema management. It is also an investor in Nansun Shi and Jeffrey Chan’s international sales outfit Distribution Workshop. Last year the company grossed a combined $490m (RMB3bn), accounting for 10% of China’s total box office.