HK Cinema - 1959
The Shaw brothers (Sir Run Run and Tan Sri Runme)
had been in the film business since the 1920’s – operating primarily out
of Singapore. They owned a huge chain of theaters across Malaysia, Singapore,
Thailand and Indonesia. They also produced some films for their theaters
though many of these were in Malay. They decided to get deeper into the
Chinese film industry and bought 46 acres of land in Clearwater Bay
in HK and built a film studio.
The only other main film studio was MPGI (later
Cathay) that had formed in 1956 under Loke Wan-tho. Their primary product
was musicals but when Loke Wan-tho died in an airplane crash in 1964 the
studio lost much of its direction.
This allowed the Shaw Brothers to become the
dominant film studio in the 60’s. Initially their main focus was on comedies,
musicals and romantic melodramas. Most of their films were Mandarin based
and over time there were fewer and fewer Cantonese films being produced.
The reason for this was that their main markets were the overseas Chinese
where Mandarin was the prevalent language.
They ran a very economical studio and were notorious
for paying their actors and directors as low a wage as possible. The actors
had very little control of their careers or which films they would be in.
Eventually, this attitude would lead to Shaw's downfall, but through the
60’s and the 70’s they put HK films on the map.