New initiative to take HK-style TV dramas and films to world stage amid Greater Bay Area development
Dream works again
Published: Mar 18, 2024 09:12 PM
Two tourists pose for photos before the statue of Bruce Lee in the Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong. Photo: VCG

Two tourists pose for photos before the statue of Bruce Lee in the Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong. Photo: VCG

Two statues stand in the Avenue of Stars, framed by the Victoria Harbour view of Tsim Sha Tsui, in China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). One is the international kung fu film star Bruce Lee, the other is Hong Kong pop star and actress Anita Mui. 

HKSAR's TV and film industry, which has produced a number of movie stars including Jackie Chan and Donne Yen, will seize a new chance to boost its development through a new initiative between Alibaba and leading Hong Kong production companies including Edko Films, Media Asia, Universe Entertainment, Shaw Brothers and Emperor Motion Pictures.

Unveiled at FilMart, the annual rights market for the Asian industries, the plan, called the "Hong Kong Cultural and Art Industry Revitalisation Program," will see an investment of HK$5 billion ($640 million) into the city's creative industries over the next five years through multiple divisions in Alibaba's Digital Media and Entertainment Group, including Alibaba Pictures and streaming platform Youku.

"We will support a new generation of Hong Kong actors, allowing more creative talents from the city to thrive in the Chinese mainland, and provide greater opportunities for young talent, while at the same time, preserving and continuing Hong Kong's unique pop culture," said Youku Vice President Xie Ying at the FilMart.

One of the plan's goals is to produce content for global audiences as Hong Kong is an important window for Chinese culture's exportation overseas, which will contribute to making the Chinese language content lead the future of the global film and television industry. 

"Let Hong Kong's style blow all over the world, and let Hong Kong's stars shine in the world," as the speech of Fan Luyuan, chairman and CEO of Alibaba's Digital Media and Entertainment Group, goes. 

New changes, new chance

For decades, Hong Kong was the third-largest film producer globally, only after Hollywood and Bollywood, and the second-largest exporter of films. The city was home to a thriving entertainment industry for the Chinese-speaking world, nurturing stars such as action legend Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. 

From the 1970s onward, the city's version of Tinseltown, the Shaw Brothers' Movietown, has become the largest privately owned studio worldwide by popularizing the kung fu genre.

With the quick rise in popularity of Chinese mainland TV and film industry productions, and late competition from international players like Netflix, Hong Kong's TV and film industry has experienced a prolonged downturn, plagued by a series of problems like a small market, limited resources, outdated themes and a talent gap. 

However, new changes are taking place as more and more young people return to the industry, encouraged by the Hong Kong TV and film industry's development through the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area with a bigger market, more subjects and young blood. 

In 2023, local courtroom drama A Guilty Conscience made history as the first local film ever to cross the HK$100 million milestone, which, in the eyes of Sun Jiashan, an associate researcher at the Central Academy of Culture and Tourism Administration, means that the Hong Kong film industry is "embracing a new development period."

The great success of the 2023 hit TV series The Queen of News starring Charmaine Sheh gave a much-needed boost to the exploration of new Hong Kong dramas produced by the joint efforts of streaming site Youku and the Hong Kong Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB).

Youku's Xie praised the efficient production of Hong Kong dramas and the professionalism of its scriptwriters, directors and actors.

"The key to the success of the 'New Hong Kong Television Series' lies in not only preserving these important resources, but also accurately understanding and continuously embracing the evolving preferences of younger audiences," Xie said.

Projects in the plan include TV dramas Forensic Heroes VI: Redemption, Darkside of the Moon, Behind The Queen Of Yarn, and Golden Era as well as films Customs Frontline, Behind the Scene, Invincible Swordsman, and Time Still Turns the Pages.

"Filmmakers who are rooted in the city's culture, possess a blend of Eastern aesthetics and an international perspective that will be key in maintaining our distinctive competitiveness in the global motion picture market," Alibaba Pictures President Li Jie told the Global Times.

People work in a virtual production studio at the Hong Kong International Film & TV Market. Photo: VCG

People work in a virtual production studio at the Hong Kong International Film & TV Market. Photo: VCG

Window to the world

Noting that the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) offers support for the development of Hong Kong into an East-meets-West center for international cultural exchange, HKSAR Chief Executive John Lee said in 2023 that the HKSAR government is actively seizing the infinite opportunities brought by the development strategies of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-­Macao Greater Bay Area, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and other national initiatives. 

At the opening of an exhibition paying tribute to Chinese martial arts novelist Jin Yong on Friday, Lee emphasized that Hong Kong is an East-meets-West center for international cultural exchange, and is an ideal platform for the "going global" promotion of excellent Chinese culture.

Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, the Secretary for Culture, Sports, and Tourism of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, said at FilMart, "We eagerly hope that the ADME Group will work more closely with the film and TV industry of Hong Kong to develop new modes of co-operation and explore business areas, to nurture new talent, and create rich and diversified content for film and TV, which will bring the development of our film and TV entertainment industry to the next level."

"To a certain extent, the new plan is equivalent to rebuilding a 'Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge,' which connects the creative industry and promotes exchanges and cooperation," added Sun.