A Brief History of Hong Kong Cinema to 1988 – Film Studios and Personalities
HF: Paul Fonoroff, well known Hong Kong film critic and historian, wrote, A Brief History of Hong Kong Cinema. I believe it was published in 1988, in Renditions, a literary magazine published by the Research Centre for Translation (RCT) at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The copy of the article I link below comes from the CUHK library.
Of particular interest to us, I think, is where film studios are mentioned, which is where of course films were largely made. They are thus part of HK’s industrial history.
I have extracted brief details from Mr Fonoroff’s article recording important dates and landmarks in HK film production but concentratng on film studios. The comments within square brackets are mine. Please note the images do not come from the article.
1896 Lumière Studio camera crew visited HK [from China?]
1909 HK’s first film production by Shanghai’s Asia Film Studios –Stealing the [or “a”?] Roast Duck
The Guardian – Quest for the long lost roast duck 2009 article
1913 American, Benjamin Brosky and Li Minwei co-founded HK’s first film studio, Huamei (Chinese-American). [Brosky appears to have been actually called Brodsky but has also been written about as Brasky and Polasky.]
1914 While the firm ended up providing a wide range of shipping-related services, its original business was in provisions and one of its early employees was Law Wing-cheung (羅永祥), who introduced his friend Lai Man-wai, the head of a local acting troupe, to Benjamin Brodsky, a Russian American filmmaker who came to HK to make movies on a ship which Wang Kee provided provisions for in 1914. Together, Lai and Brodsky made the first dramatic film produced in Hong Kong – “Chuang Chi Tests His Wife”(莊子試妻)and launched the HK film industry. Wong Tai-chiu (黃大釗), the labor union leader and director of the pro-Beijing Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, also worked as a foreman for Wang Kee in his younger days in the early 1920s.
1922 Li Minwei formed HK’s first Chinese-owned film company, China Sun Company
1924 China Sun produced HK’s first full-length dramatic film, Rouge. The studio was in Ngan Mok (Silver Screen) Street, Tin Hau, but because of water shortages the film was made in Guangzhou.
1925-26 The Great Strike closed a number of fledgling film companies including China Sun’s studio in HK
1925- 30 Production moved to Guangzhou and no films were made in HK during this period
1930 Li Beihai founded the Hong Kong Film Company
1930 The merger of Li Minwei’s China Sun with North China studio headed by Luo Mingyou, along with two other studios, to form United Photoplay Service
1931 A HK studio of United Photoplay was set up with Li Beihai as studio head
1933 The first Cantonese language talkie, Platinum Dragon, was made in Shanghai, not HK, by Tianyi Studio, run by the eldest of the Shaw brothers, Shao Zuiweng
1935 Grandview Film Company had begun in the USA funded by Chinese-Americans. In this year it moved its base to HK.
Around this time the other important HK studio was Nanyang, Tianyi’s HK operation
Pre-WW2 Events in Shanghai and China generally led to an exodus of film talent to HK. This section of the article needs to be read to absorb the complexities of the film industry in both China and HK during this period. Sound films becoming the norm pre and post war led to a huge increase in the number of fims being made in HK with dozens of small studios opening “overnight”.
1941 Dec – Grandview studios and other film facilities were bombed. Film production stopped in HK until 1946
Post WW2 The largest film studio was Great China. Smaller ones were Yonghua and Nan Kuen.
Late 1940s to mid-1960s Cantonese film studios, including Sun Luen and Chung Luen,concentrated on cheap and quickly made films. Mandarin studios were, Great Wall, Feng Huang, Motion Pictures & General Investment (MP&GI) and Shaw Brothers
1952 The remaining Shanghai studios were nationalized
1950s and 1960s The largest HK studios were Shaw Brothers and MP&GI
1964 [?] MP&GI became Cathay which closed in 1972
1960 to 1971 Cantonese films produced dropped dramatically
Early 1970s The new film industry giant was Golden Harvest [this photo shows Golden Studios Ltd which I believe was the same company?]
1970s to late 1980s The articles mentions HK made films but no studios are mentioned
1988 The year the article was, I think, published.
This Indhhk article was first published on 27th September 2014.
- A Brief History of Hong Kong Cinema Paul Fonoroff, Renditions, CUHK, 1988
- Hong Kong’s film and TV industry after 40 years of China’s opening up and reform: once ‘Hollywood of the East’, does future now lie in being mainland’s supporting cast? SCMP 30th November 2018
Related Indhhk articles:
- Film Studios, Hong Kong – dates, locations, layout, founders…
- Golden Harvest Film Studio – Diamond Hill
- The Aircraft Maintenance Industry in Hong Kong – post WW2
Run Run Shaw’s film studio complex at Clearwater Bay re-erected the PAMAS hangar at Kai Tak airport after it was dismantled when the new runway pointing out to sea was brought into service.