Asian big screen superstars, Jet Li, and the Chinese bombshell Zhang Ziyi of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon fame, could have their next starring role in a $20 million New Zealand production.
The film, A Kung Fu Western Love Story, was top of the list of five projects discussed by Chinese film and Government officials and Waitakere City Council yesterday.
"We think it would be fantastic to have two of China's greatest stars, Jet Li and Zhang Ziyi, to kickstart New Zealand's co-production venture with China," said Pacific Culture and Arts Exchange chairman Jim He, who was organising the talks. "It will definitely make an international impact."
The other titles, Dream in a Battle Field, Kathleen Hall, Little Dragon and Desert Rose, will cost between $3 million and $5 million, and the total joint-venture deal could be worth in excess of $30 million, Mr He said. Filming could take place locally as well as in China. The Chinese Government has said it was willing to meet half of the costs.
The last joint venture New Zealand had with Asia was with Singapore for The Tattooist, but Mr He said this film co-operation agreement would be the first with China and would be on a far larger scale.
"Not only will it create jobs for New Zealanders because part of the production and special effects will be done here, it will also help New Zealand break into the Chinese film market, which is huge," he said.
Mr He said an average person in China watched between 10 and 16 movies a year, and the potential returns for a blockbuster movie could be close to $3 billion.
With the launch of Cinema Asia by SkyCity Cinemas, Mr He said he was confident that the movies could also become a hit locally.
Interest in a joint venture with New Zealand came as a result of the free-trade agreement and initiated during a trip to China by Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey last year, Mr He added.
Milt Barlow, the head of distribution at SkyCity Cinemas, said the group's experiment with screening Chinese films had been "extremely successful" and "well attended".
He said there had been a growing trend of non-Asians going to watch movies, which amounted to more than 10 per cent at Chinese screenings.
"The problem we have in bringing in movies from Asia is finding a distributor, so this is fantastic news and we will definitely support the local productions," Mr Barlow said.
China's highest grossing film, If You Are The One, opens at SkyCity Cinemas tomorrow, the first screening outside Asia.
SkyCity Cinemas will also start to screen Thai and Korean films in the coming months, he said.
The Chinese film delegation, which included Chinese Film Group general manager Han Xiaoli and Government representatives Wen Quan and Wang Yanmei, arrived in New Zealand early yesterday and met local film producers and Film Auckland in the afternoon. Tomorrow, the delegation will meet the New Zealand Film Commission in Wellington.
It will also visit post-production studios, Park Road Post and Weta Workshop.