Hong Kong Cinema

Shaw Brothers News


20/03/02 - Interview with William Pfeiffer - U. Notre Dame: CEO brings Asian film to U.S.
U-Wire (University Wire)
© 2002 Copyright U-Wire. All Rights Reserved.

By Lauren Beck, The Observer (U. Notre Dame)

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-In an era seemingly dominated by American pop culture, William Pfeiffer, CEO of Hong Kong-based Celestial Pictures, promotes globalization by targeting local audiences. Pfeiffer, a 1982 University of Notre Dame graduate, described his experience with the business of contemporary Asian media as he delivered the keynote address in the Conference on Globalization and Media in Asia on Friday. Pfeiffer has pioneered the globalization of the media, leading film studios to adopt the philosophy "think globally, script locally."

"We are bringing Asian film outside, exporting it to many countries around the world, and having an impact on the quality of entertainment," said Pfeiffer, citing the Oscar nomination for best picture that "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" received as proof. Celestial Pictures, which owns the largest film library in Asia, distributes films to studios worldwide and also features them on new television networks it has created. "There is a value in showing these films in their local languages. They have crossed over and are appealing to audiences they were not originally intended for. I think audiences appreciate the original language," said Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer is currently developing a new Chinese film-based channel that will be broadcast around the world. The channel also includes some Korean and Japanese films, as well as other Asian films produced directly by Celestial Pictures. Pfeiffer made 10 films this year, but he said he hopes to produce 30 to 40 each year in the near future. Pfeiffer said he viewed his work as a positive effort to promote cultural diversity in media around the world, rather than a means to bring Hollywood to Asia. "I don't feel like a purveyor of American culture around the world. I have a responsibility to show local cultures in a positive light. We have these talented actors, and I provide them with the proper resources to make their story come alive. We create stories with a local context." Pfeiffer has a history of melding East and West. After earning an MBA from Stanford University, Pfeiffer moved to Asia in 1983 and served as head of marketing for Smith Kline Beecham. He developed a campaign to achieve acceptance for American pharmaceuticals on the Asian market, and his success merited recognition from Walt Disney.

Disney appointed Pfeiffer head of their Asian operations and hoped he would strengthen its presence in Asia. "There was a resistance to change in international business because every country is unique. It was my job as a businessman to find a new and better way," he said. Pfeiffer brought the culture of Disney to Japan through a television program called "The Disney Club," which combined Japanese hosts and children with Disney animation and merchandise. The show expanded to over 50 countries, with localized content for each one. When the booming Japanese economy of the late 1980s failed in 1991, Pfeiffer looked for a Future elsewhere in Asia. He moved to Hong Kong and began working with Sony pictures. "Sony was looking for new opportunities. Rather than go after a smaller niche, we looked at the competition around Asia and saw the opportunity to go after the mass market with localized content," said Pfeiffer. Sony became the first major Hollywood studio to set up office in China, where it distributed programs to major networks in China. But faced with restrictions on foreign production in China, it explored other markets in Asia.

Pfeiffer and his associates saw India as a promising potential market,and in 1995 they launched a television channel called Sony Entertainment Television. "We developed a network of channels that would appeal to a variety of audiences with diverse tastes," said Pfeiffer. As more studios saw the growth opportunity in Asia and pursued their interests there, Sony also backed Columbia TriStar International TV. Today, Pfeiffer continues to diversify his programming by region. "You look at regions like China, Malaysia, India-these markets are currently depressed, they have huge populations, and they are primed for growth. We're trying to ride the wave of the next growth in Asia," he said. Pfeiffer said he sees a bright future for the globalization of media as he helps transcend cultural barriers. "We are all part of the same world. People make up many of the differences; I think we are in reality quite similar," he said.

19/03/02 - Update

Apparently the release date is now Summer 2002 for the first batch.

Celestial Pictures, UTSB's Hong Kong subsidiary, is busy restoring original prints, brightening faded colors and filling in broken frames in preparation for their release this summer on DVD and other video formats. Celestial is negotiating with potential video distributors.

UTSB plans to use the library as the foundation of a Chinese-language movie channel, to be distributed to Chinese communities worldwide. The channel plans to begin operations this year.

Celestial plans to issue 20 remastered movies a month, "enough for a Shaw Bros. rack" in video stores, said Shirley Chung, Celestial's corporate affairs general manager. This would include box sets for Shaw's various genres, including historical dramas, ghost stories, swordplay epics and erotic films

The First Ten wuxia titles are: Golden Swallow, Temple of the Red Lotus, Oath of Death, Chinese Boxer, One-Armed Swordsman, Return of the One Armed Swordsman, 14 Amazons, Last Woman of Shang, King Boxer, King Eagle and Wandering Swordsman

24/01/02 - Email from Celestial to SB fan:

Thank you for your enquiry and your interest in the Shaw Brothers movies. It is exciting to receive so many responses from fans of SB movies all over the world.

Please find below answers to your questions.

1) Yes. The movies will be released in their most complete, uncut versions.

2) Yes. The movies will be released in their original screen ratio.

3) The tracks will be in their own languages (Mandarin or Cantonese) with English subtitles.

4) and 5) We are still preparing our strategy on these matters. It will be a worldwide launch some time around Spring/Summer. The exact release dates have not yet been decided. The titles to be released will include martial arts, action, adventures, period drama, comedy and musical.

12/12/01 - General Article on Shaw Brothers - Celestial (from Screendaily.com)

Celestial readies Hong Kong studio power-play
Patrick Frater in London December 12, 2001

Hong Kong, whose once famous studios now lurk like decrepit ghosts, is about to take Asian film and TV on new thrill ride.

Celestial Pictures, which will be a vertically integrated studio operation spanning production, distribution and broadcast, is poised to unveil its debut slate. A series of pan-Asian film channels will follow within months.

One industry insider described the move as: "the most significant thing to happen to Hong Kong cinema over the last five years."

The company is headed by William Pfeiffer, a 20-year veteran of Asian media and until recently executive vice president, Columbia TriStar International Television Asia. It is backed by Usaha Tegas, the privately-owned media empire belonging to Malaysian tycoon Ananda Krishnan. Its other assets include the Measat and Astro satellite operations and the Maxis mobile phone company.

Celestial started life when it paid for $77m (HK600m) for the 760-title Shaw Brothers feature library early last year. It now owns all rights, in perpetuity. But Celestial took on a new dimension when Pfeiffer, who had pursued the same catalogue for Sony, persuaded Krishnan that the collection was merely the backbone for something much bigger.

"What we are developing is a vertically-integrated, Asian-language, focussed entertainment company," said Pfeiffer. "We are looking at the world-wide Asian market, not just those living in Asia. This is a strategy that proved itself at Sony."

The films, which include classics such as The One-Armed Swordsman and The Five Deadly Venoms, are now being restored and digitally remastered with an initial investment of $14.8m (HK$115m). Celestial sees the films being released by its new TV arm, on DVD and possibly theatrically.

Theatrical release is the firm target of Celestial’s development and production arm. Headed by the celebrated and prolific actor-director-producer Wong Jing this is planning an initial slate of 12-15 pictures. These are likely to include some remakes of classic Shaw titles, but is likely to also include original material in a number of different Asian languages Although Pfeiffer would not confirm, Stephen Chiau, the director of recent smash hit Shaolin Soccer, is widely rumoured to be on board. Celestial will unveil its debut slate in January.

Once up to speed, feature production could exceed 20 films a year. TV programming and animated series are also on the agenda and being developed.

At the same time Celestial is negotiating carriage deals on cable and satellite networks in Asia and around the world. It envisages rolling out a bouquet of film channels from mid-2002. The first is likely to be a Chinese-language channel, which includes Japanese and Korean films in its mix. "We are acquiring as many films as we can reasonably get our hands on. They are a mixture of first run and library pictures."

While the whole Celestial project could involve total investment approaching $100m, before it starts to see any revenues, Pfeiffer said: "we are strongly supported and backed by Usaha Tegas. It is a long term commitment. We would consider a strategic investor if they brought something with them. But we don’t need to that for the finance."

Pfeiffer sees Celestial’s multi-media approach as a means to overcome some of the structural weaknesses of film in Asia, such as a lack of adequate theatrical screening outlets and video piracy.

23/11/01 - Email from Celestial Pics:

Celestial Pictures will be releasing the classic SB movies on DVD in Hong Kong, America and the UK some time in Spring. The exact release dates have not yet been decided.

For your infomation, we are in the process of remastering the negatives and will re-package them in a high quality standard DVD format. The soundtrack and sub-titling will be greatly improved and it will have a widescreen format.

The titles to be released will include martial arts, action, adventures, period drama, comedy and musical, and they will be in their original language with English subtitles.

Celestial Pictures owns the world's largest collection of Chinese feature films, including the Shaw Brothers library.

Once again, thank you for your patience and we look forward to your continued support!

Best regards,
Alice Leung
Executive Assistant to CEO

Although normally I am a great advocate of Subtitled movies in the original language, this is Shaw Brothers we are talking about!! One of the great charms of Shaw Brothers films is the fact that they manage to persuade 10 English residents in Hong Kong at the time (some who sound like relaitves of the Monty Python cast) to dub several hundred films. I can only suggest that the way forward is to do dual language (Hong Kong Legends style) if you want to rule the waves. But I'm sure the picture quality will be superb compared to the mediocrity and sheer crap coming out of Ground Zero, Crash etc at the moment.

4/09/01 - Celestial Pictures are going to spend $15,000,000 on re-mastering the Shaw Brothers film library!!


Welcome to the Shaw Brothers new page. This page is dedicated to the Celestial Pictures remastering of the Shaw Brothers library.

The posts are in chronology (going upwards).

If you have any information to contribute, please send it to this address.


First 10 Wuxia Titles:

  • Golden Swallow
  • Temple of the Red Lotus
  • Oath of Death
  • Chinese Boxer
  • One-Armed Swordsman
  • Return of the One Armed Swordsman
  • 14 Amazons
  • Last Woman of Shang
  • King Boxer
  • King Eagle and Wandering Swordsman