When Fortune Smiles: The Life and Times of Raymond Chow and Golden Harvest

Raymond Chow in 2013

Raymond Chow, a major figure in world cinema, died on 2 November 2018. He was the co-founder and public face of the Hong Kong based Golden Harvest Film Company. From 1970-2003, Golden Harvest produced approximately 600 feature films, and through its theatrical arm distributed nearly as many titles again. From the mid-1980s, Golden Harvest became the most prosperous and prolific movie business in South East Asia, supplanting the once all-powerful Shaw Brothers Studio.

Raymond Chow and Run Run Shaw of Shaw Brothers spent much of their professional life at first as trusted colleagues and later as commercial rivals. Both possessed brilliant business minds and that key ability to recognise and develop raw talent.

Chow had the demeanour and guile of a welcoming restaurateur. His heavy-set glasses and easy smile were as much disarming to business acquaintances as they were reassuring to family and friends.

As a businessman, Raymond Chow had few peers in the Cantonese film industry. His planning and forward thinking had him at least five years ahead of his competitors – and they all knew it!

Raymond Chow Man-Wai was born in Hong Kong in 1927, and following his father’s death the family moved to Shanghai where Chow spent his formative years. He attended the prestigious St John University where he studied English and Journalism. It was during these tertiary years he developed a life-long passion for Eastern and Western cultures, particularly cinema.

Run Run Shaw and Run Me Shaw, circa 1950s

By the early 1950s, the daily grind and appeal of journalism was beginning to wear thin for Raymond Chow. He moved back to Hong Kong and began work in the more lucrative advertising industry.

In 1959, he was employed by the Shaw Brothers Studio in the marketing department. He rose quickly in the organisation and by the mid-1960s was Head of Film Production. Chow proved to be a very capable and loyal lieutenant to Run Run Shaw and his brother Run Me.

The 1970s: Enter the Dragon to Jackie who?

It was in 1969 that Raymond Chow first met Bruce Lee, who he saw as having great potential as a future star and a figure to lead the studio into the 1970s. Unfortunately, both Shaw brothers didn’t envisage such a rosy career path for this “cocky TV actor”. Chow described Lee as a game changer – something the studio was going to need in coming years. But the powers-that-be were set in their opposition to employing Bruce Lee – and their decision was final.

Raymond Chow was facing a major dilemma: to remain at the Shaw Studio as a well paid functionary or to pursue Bruce Lee as an independent producer. As a middle-aged executive with a young family, the stakes were high.

Chow acted swiftly, and with Shaw Brothers colleague, Leonard Ho, they set up the Golden Harvest Film Company. Veteran Shaw Brothers director, Lo Wei, also jumped ship and joined the new entity. It was a company without a studio, stars or produced films. But Chow did have a tentative arrangement with the now LA-based Bruce Lee to negotiate a possible contract with the newly formed Golden Harvest.

Raymond Chow and Leonard Ho knew it was vital to get Lee to sign with their company. Both executives decided to not be directly involved with the contract negotiations. Instead, Chow asked Lo Wei’s wife, Lau Leung-Wah, would she speak with Lee. It turned out she was a close friend of Lee’s parents. In a short time, the “cocky TV actor” was on his way to Thailand to star in a Golden Harvest martial-arts / adventure pic, The Big Boss.

The Big Boss

For the time being the banks were on side with Hong Kong’s newest film company – a situation which could change very quickly.

Nearly everything rested upon The Big Boss being a commercial success. The production was fraught with problems, and early on saw Lo Wei replace the original director. The cast and crew disliked the primitive Thai locations, and Lee spent much of his non-film-making time fending off agents working for the Shaw Brothers who were now offering the actor big money deals to leave Golden Harvest and to work for Hong Kong’s largest film studio. Lee told each of these carpetbaggers: “Raymond Chow is going to make me an international movie star.”

The Big Boss opened in Hong Kong in late October 1971, and quickly became the highest grossing film in the colony’s history. Bruce Lee’s screen charisma and his character’s conflicted persona were a revelation to Hong Kong audiences. Plus the movie’s stylised violence and overt sexuality only added to the picture’s mass appeal. Within months, and screenings throughout South East Asia, The Big Boss had returned fifty times its initial budget – a financial figure unheard of in those years.

Lee and Lo Wei went to work on their next pic, Fist of Fury, whilst Raymond Chow was busy talking with Hollywood executives who were beginning to see what Bruce Lee could be capable of. It was with Warner Brothers and director Robert Clouse that a film project was being seriously discussed.

Fist of Fury repeated the box-office success of The Big Boss. Personally, I believe Fist of Fury is Lee’s masterpiece, which begins as a straight forward revenge movie but soon develops into a much darker narrative where Lee eschews the heroic for the psychotic. The final shot is a rabble rousing, visceral image which soon became an iconic freeze frame of 1970’s world cinema. And for many Asian people the highpoint of Bruce Lee’s short cinema career.

Fist of Fury‘s arresting final image

The production of Enter the Dragon in Hong Kong by a major Hollywood studio was big news in the region. At the centre of this frenetic cinema activity were Bruce Lee and Raymond Chow. This was a gilded time for both where financial and artistic futures were often being considered. It was no secret that the Warner Brothers suits saw this rising star and Hong Kong producer as opening doors to audiences that had been previously closed to American film companies.

“Fortune may favour the brave but it is the weavers of fate who decide our destiny.” In mid-1973, Enter the Dragon was released world-wide and became a box-office phenomenon. Only six days before its US premiere, Bruce Lee was found dead in a Hong Kong apartment owned by a Canto starlet named Betty Pei-Tai. The news spread like wildfire and the circumstances surrounding his death were shrouded in official secrecy, thus creating a world of lurid rumours from triad assassination to sex play gone wrong. Raymond Chow was also linked to the death as it was strongly suggested he and Lee had spent the day with the young actress. Chow denied this emphatically but did admit he was the first person Betty Pei-Tai contacted when she found Lee to be seriously ill that night.

Bruce Lee from Enter the Dragon

The post mortem eventually showed the star died of a cerebral edema, triggered by a severe reaction to excessive use of pain killers and tranquillisers. The coroner ruled: death by misadventure.

The death of Bruce Lee demonstrated once again how a major star is often at the hub of the commercial film-making process. All the plans for Lee’s future involving Hollywood, Raymond Chow and Golden Harvest were nothing more than ideas in the ether, without the star to bring it together and to make it happen.

On a personal and professional level, the loss of Bruce Lee was a body blow to Raymond Chow. To an outsider, such a tragic event for a fledgling film company could well be something the business might never recover from.

But from day one of Golden Harvest, Chow and Leonard Ho had invested wisely in talent and bricks and mortar. They had under contract a shrewd blend of young and veteran stars, and for Hong Kong audiences Golden Harvest was producing a string entertaining and profitable genre films. Ex-Shaw Brothers leading light, Jimmy Wang-Yu, starred in excellent martial-arts pics such as One-Armed Boxer and Beach of the War Gods. Taiwanese born Angela Mao Ying was a screen sensation in Lady Whirlwind and When Taekwando Strikes. Her brief but memorable stint in Enter the Dragon creating a well deserved star profile. And in late 1971, Chow and Ho purchased the then shuttered Cathay Film Studio on Diamond Hill Road, Kowloon. This was to become the focal point of Golden Harvest’s operations for the next twenty-five years and one of the most important studio complexes in South East Asia.

Despite the early success of Golden Harvest in the local market, Raymond Chow still harboured a desire on making it big in Hollywood with a new Chinese star. In the mid-70s, he was involved in a series of co-productions with British and Australian film companies of hybrid genre films with Cantonese and European stars. The best known of these titles were Stoner and The Man From Hong Kong, the latter featuring ex-007 figure George Lazenby as a kung fu fighting criminal kingpin and with Jimmy Wang-Yu (a role originally written for Bruce Lee) as his nemesis, a relentless Dirty Harry-styled HK cop. The movies were good fun but all died at their respective box-offices.

It was also during the mid-1970s and in the realm of comedy that Raymond Chow struck gold when he signed up the popular small screen team, the Hui brothers, to make a series of big screen comedies. Films like Games Gamblers Play, Private Eyes and Security Unlimited were to become the highest box-office earners of the 1970s in Hong Kong. The three brothers led by the stone-faced misanthrope, Michael Hui, captivated audiences with their hilarious (mis-) adventures. Even today, the movies remain as funny as ever.

It wasn’t until later in the decade that Chow finally found a Hong Kong actor whom he thought capable of cracking Hollywood. His name was Jackie Chan and his kung fu comedies (Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Drunken Master) had caught Raymond Chow’s attention. Hong Kong cinema-goers were enjoying Chan’s new take on martial-arts cinema, and it was a trend Chow felt he could sell to the West. He worked with Enter the Dragon helmsman Robert Clouse and they came up with a movie idea which both saw as offering the best of Jackie Chan in a recognisably American setting. The film was Battle Creek Brawl which has Chan taking on numerous bare knuckled fighters in an American style kung fu competition, set during the depression era.

Battle Creek Brawl was no Enter the Dragon, but Chan had made a favourable impression on the studio decision makers. Chow, Chan and Clouse were ready to explore further offerings from Hollywood. But to the sheer disbelief of the Chinese producer and the American director, Chan began telling studio heads and journalists “I am not the new Bruce Lee. I am Jackie Chan!” “Jackie who?” was the dour response from film executives. And as quickly as Chow and Chan had arrived in Hollywood – they were now leaving the City of Angels.

Raymond Chow and Jackie Chan returned to Hong Kong where both were determined to make big names for themselves in the Cantonese movie industry. Hollywood could wait…

1980-1995: A Golden Era

Raymond Chow and Leonard Ho carefully planned and plotted the growth of Golden Harvest, and watched it become the biggest movie-making entity since the heyday of the Shaw Brothers and Cathay dream factories from the 1950s and 60s.

L-R: Jackie Chan, Raymond Chow, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao

In the vanguard of this expansion was Jackie Chan as star and director, whose films were often a groundbreaking and death defying mix of action and comedy. His creative inspiration was a curious blend of Buster Keaton and Peking Opera, with a grab bag of influences in-between. The public loved Chan and his films. They also liked his screen family: a repertory of stars including Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and Maggie Cheung.

Golden Harvest also encouraged young film-makers and gave fresh talent such as Ching Siu-Tung (A Chinese Ghost Story), Yuen Kwai (Ninja in the Dragon’s Den) and Johnny Mak (Long Arm of the Law) a creative freedom in genre film-making. Chow rewarded directors and stars when their films performed well financially. At the time, Golden Harvest offered a very different production environment to the Shaw Brothers, and by the early 1980s saw Shaw Brothers talent often heading towards Golden Harvest after their contracts had expired.

Johnny Mak’s Long Arm of the Law

The 1980s which saw the continuing rise of Golden Harvest also witnessed the decline of the Shaw Brothers Film Studio. By the early 80s, Run Run Shaw and his business partners were investing heavily in Hong Kong television and developing the TVB commercial network. In hindsight, Chow and Shaw had avoided what could have been a protracted and damaging corporate stoush. In what appeared to be a tacit agreement, both businessmen decided to concentrate on their core activities and not seriously encroach on each other’s markets. Although, Golden Harvest did benefit from the stars whom were being created by the now popular TVB studio. Future big screen names such as Chow Fun-Fat, Cherie Chung, Stephen Chow, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and many others all began their careers with TVB, which ultimately created a Hong Kong talent pool which Golden Harvest selected the best from.

Jet Li in Once Upon a Time in China 2

The boom in Cantonese language film production of the late 1980s, early 90s saw Golden Harvest become one of the biggest and most profitable film companies in the world. The company continued to produce genre films, but was now also attracting many of Hong Kong’s New Wave film-makers from the early 1980s, with offers of production facilities and exhibition outlets. Directors like Tsui Hark (Peking Opera Blues) and his company Film Workshop were now able to make popular, big-budget movies like the Once Upon a Time in China martial-arts series, and superb historical dramas and fantasy features such as The Lovers and The Wicked City.

In 1990, acclaimed Canto film-maker Ann Hui directed Song of the Exile, about an estranged Japanese mother (Liu Hsiao-Fen) and her Chinese daughter (Maggie Cheung). This Golden Harvest release was a huge hit in Hong Kong and with overseas Chinatown audiences.

Raymond Chow also backed difficult projects and a co-production with China, The Soong Sisters, was one of the most difficult. Chow supported director Mabel Cheung as she battled with Beijing’s censors who were heavily cutting the pic for a mainland release. Well over budget and more the a year late, the movie was finally shown in Hong Kong (I don’t think it ever received a mainland China screening) where it garnered good box-office, enthusiastic reviews and later a slew of Hong Kong film awards. The Soong Sisters is a visually stunning motion picture with a memorable ensemble performance from a trio of Asia’s best known actresses, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and Vivian Wu.

The international profile of Golden Harvest during the 90s was mostly due to one person: Jackie Chan. Golden Harvest pushed Chan’s films to as many overseas markets as they could. It was finally in 1995 with Chan’s urban action-adventure pic Rumble in the Bronx (which was nearly all filmed in Vancouver), that the elusive North American market was conquered. With this belated breakthrough, Chow and Chan had the benefit of not having to put their commercial interests or careers in the hands of Hollywood’s overlords. They knew by now what to do and what not to do.

From the late 1970s, Golden Harvest under Raymond Chow and Leonard Ho had invested wisely in property, theme parks and cinemas world-wide, including a profitable and long standing partnership with Australia’s Village Roadshow theatre chain, under the banner of Golden Village.

The Golden Harvest cinemas in Hong Kong have always set the highest standards for cinema-going. Today, the luxurious Sky Cineplex in Kowloon is the current flagship theatre for the organisation, and provides a state-of-the-art viewing experience.

In the late 90s, I visited the plush Golden Harvest cinemas in Central on Hong Kong Island more than a few times, and mainly for the following reasons: Chinese audiences usually refrained from talking during a film and the “No Smoking” regulations were strictly enforced (at the time, unlike any other theatre in Hong Kong). A very different era.

Raymond Chow might have held Hollywood at arm’s length during these years, but Golden Harvest did invest in a small number of Hollywood productions. Most notably, crowd-pleasing comedies the Ninja Turtle movies and two Cannonball Run pics. The films were surprise hits on their cinema debuts and have been paying handsome dividends ever since.

The late 1980s and early 90s were Golden Harvest’s best years where scores of Cantonese language films were produced and exhibited.

Raymond Chow never forgot the audiences who wanted escapist fare on their regular visits to the cinema. The early 90s saw many outstanding commercial releases. They were often funny, clever, exciting and never boring! Plus there seemed to be no taboo subjects, everything and everyone were fair game. It was a golden time for Hong Kong film.

I realise it’s nearly impossible to pick a small number of movies which represent Golden Harvest at its best. But here goes!

Her Fatal Ways (1990) starring Carol (Do-Do) Cheng was a huge hit in Hong Kong which spawned three sequels. The film was a hilarious take on Ernst Lubitsch’s Ninotchka, with Cheng arriving in HK from Beijing to teach the locals a thing or two about law enforcement – mainland style!

From Beijing with Love

To Be Number One (1991) An epic gangster drama about a real-life mobster, Crippled Ho (Ray Liu), a Chiu Chow peasant who in the 1960s became the most feared crime figure in Hong Kong. The violence may have been wincingly brutal but the narrative and recreation of the 1960’s island colony made this film something special.

From Beijing With Love (1994) Hong Kong’s King of Comedy in the 90s was Stephen Chow and he was in fine form with this bloody and bloody funny James Bond spoof. The movie is so inspired and so random there’s a genuine Monty Python vibe to it. Chow’s co-star, Anita Yuen, has trouble keeping a straight face in most of her scenes with Chow. The story-line has Ling Ling Chat (Cantonese for 007) sent to recover a dinosaur’s head stolen by a gang of international villains. Pure comedy gold!

Sex and Zen (1991) was a notorious exploitation feature which found favour with Canto middle-class audiences, who certainly got the joke! The pic follows the ups and downs of a young scholar who becomes a Ming Dynasty Mr Ed after an equine penis transplant. Through good luck more than anything, Sex and Zen found an appreciative non-Asian audience in Australia in the mid-90s, via an art-house chain. It even got the reviewer from the Sydney Morning Herald all steamed up when he breathlessly described this Sino oddity as “A bedroom banquet”.

Sex and Zen‘s original HK poster

It was no surprise to Hong Kong’s business community when in 1994 the Golden Harvest Company was listed on the local bourse. From day one the stock was seen as a good investment which attracted mum and dad shareholders and the likes of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-Shing, who in the late 20th century was the richest man in Asia.

1997-2007: The Handover and a Hard Rain a Coming…

Hong Kong of the mid-1990s, saw a population which was seriously worried about their lives and livelihoods post 1997, when the British colony returned to Chinese rule under China’s Communist Party. Only six years before, had Hong Kong’s populace watched in horror on their TV screens as PLA tanks and soldiers crushed and shot students in the Tiananmen Square protests. Anyone who could afford to leave Hong Kong – did! The latter included the big names of the Cantonese film industry: Chow Fun-Fat, Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Stephen Chow, Maggie Cheung and others… Film-makers such as Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam, Kirk Wong and Clara Law also joined the exodus of talent to the West.

This loss of screen creativity coincided with a falling box-office for local films (or was it the cause?). Since 1993, Hollywood movies were regularly outperforming Cantonese pics financially. This was something that had, literally, never happened before. Hong Kong was one of a handful of international markets which Hollywood was never able to dominate, mainly because the local product was so popular. But the audience was changing and there was a hunger for Western culture from Hong Kong’s youth.

One of the bright lights of Canto cinema during this period were the films from United Filmmakers Organisation (UFO Ltd), a production company set up by veteran actor Eric Tsang, US-trained director Peter Chan Ho-Sun and director / writer Lee Chi-Ngai. The gender bending comedy He’s a Woman, She’s a Man and the raunchy drama Twenty-Something were big hits with the young and tertiary educated. UFO Films were also introducing new stars like Anita Yuen, Kelly Chan and Takeshi Kaneshiro to an admiring movie-going public. By 1995, Raymond Chow had offered a production and distribution deal for the UFO product. It was a good move which allowed UFO to produce quality films on a regular basis. For at least the next five years, UFO releases considerably bolstered Golden Harvest’s bottom line.

Comrades, Almost a Love Story

In 1997, I interviewed director Peter Chan following the release of his popular and award-winning immigrant drama, Comrades, Almost a Love Story. I asked him were there any plans to market Comrades.. to an overseas audience. His blunt reply was “Golden Harvest only promotes Jackie Chan’s films internationally.”

It was a real pity (then and now) that polished productions from UFO like Jacob Cheung’s lesbian tale Intimates , Mabel Cheung’s HK-Euro romance City of Glass and Lost and Found a visually and emotionally beguiling romantic fantasy starring Kelly Chan, weren’t given a chance to be seen by foreign audiences outside the Chinatown circuit.

Not surprisingly, by the early 2000s Peter Chan had left Golden Harvest and had co-founded a mainland company which went on to produce some of China’s best films of that period including the Donnie Yen martial-arts / murder mystery, Wuxia (aka Dragon) and the Jet Li, Andy Lau historical epic, Warlords.

The second half of the 1990s saw dark clouds gathering ominously on the horizon. They were to break on a number of fronts and eventually affect the long-term futures of Golden Harvest and Raymond Chow.

The painful irony of these coming years was to be these events were completely out of the hands of anyone at Golden Harvest.

But before we get to that, I think the following is worth relating. These facts, as such, have been culled from various sources, plus some contemporary media coverage. I’d heard of this “disagreement” at the time and watched it unfold with particular interest.

My father, who was no slouch as a businessman, once told me how some large, well-run international corporations can reach a point where they seem to run themselves (at the time he was talking about the UK-based Swire Group), and where owners and senior managers can become totem figures.

The very successful Raymond Chow could never be described as a totem figure. He was hands-on and he knew everything about the Golden Harvest Company. In mid-1996, he was on a stop-over in Melbourne and whilst reading one of the city’s tabloids noticed an advert for a special season of the Cantonese language film, Rumble in the Bronx, being screened at a suburban independent cinema. Chow made some enquiries and learnt the theatre owner had hired the movie from a local Chinese cinema proprietor, who, as it turned out, didn’t hold the distribution rights for this Jackie Chan film.

Raymond Chow informed the cinema owner he would have to pay a hefty fine to Golden Harvest, plus a standard fee if he wanted to continue screening Rumble in the Bronx. The Chinese theatre owner became involved and the situation soon devolved into a 3-way stand-off, with the HK entrepreneur threatening to take the print from both exhibitors. Each party could see where this was potentially heading… Normally, an executive like Chow would pass this problem to his legal department – and then move on. But the co-founder of Golden Harvest wanted this dispute solved – quick smart! Albeit, at the same time he didn’t want to further line the silk pockets of the local legal fraternity. Chow stayed in Melbourne and worked out an agreement between the film company and the suburban cinema owner (by this time the Chinese exhibitor had already incurred the wrath of Chow).

Rumble in the Bronx

All this eventually came to light with the new advertising that the suburban theatre owner was forced to run when Rumble continued its limited engagement. A daily newspaper and assorted street press had great fun in highlighting the new publicity for a “film which wasn’t allowed to be named and a star whose name wasn’t allowed to be shown.” The advertising flyers for this programme have become highly collectable.

By the late 1990s, the falling audience numbers for Cantonese films world-wide was becoming a long-term trend. The reality was the Hong Kong film industry was not in a downturn it was in decline. Golden Harvest wasn’t producing as many feature films, and it was mostly Jackie Chan movies and one-off blockbusters (The Storm Riders, A Man Called Hero) which were keeping the company in the black.

But there was cause for optimism when it came to the large but untapped cinema-going market in mainland China. Golden Harvest’s hierarchy was being encouraged by China’s government to develop multiplexes throughout Southern China. The potential for growth was enormous. But at the same time, Raymond Chow wasn’t in a big hurry to move the company’s film production to China, mainly because the state censors regularly banned / severely cut movies from Hong Kong film-makers.

In 1998, Golden Harvest’s co-founder, Leonard Ho, died suddenly. It was a huge shock to all at the company – and especially Raymond Chow. Ho had shunned the limelight during his career, but with Chow they were the driving forces behind the success of Golden Harvest. Chow had lost a business partner and a close friend.

In what must have seemed like a 1-2 punch, the same year saw Hong Kong’s new Communist rulers fail to renew the lease on the Diamond Hill property. Instead, a public housing development was to be built on the studio acreage. For a business operation this size there was nothing in Hong Kong even comparable, let alone available. It would have been easier to relocate Golden Harvest to Southern China. But Raymond Chow wasn’t yet ready to take this leap of commercial faith.

Only a small number of films were produced by Golden Harvest in the following years. In 2003, My Lucky Star, a Canto comedy-drama, was officially the final movie made by the studio.

Meanwhile, Raymond Chow had been pushing ahead with new cinemas in China, and the profits on those investments were impressive. The mainland Chinese were embracing a movie-going culture, which now included a growing selection of local releases, mostly due to the recently relaxed censorship regime.

By the early 2000s, rumours had begun circulating about the possible sale of the Golden Harvest Company. It was strongly suggested the likely buyer would be a mainland businessman. Once this prospective sale became public, Raymond Chow enthusiastically promoted the business as being the future for mainland Chinese film production and exhibition. It was also around this time that Run Run Shaw was seeking buyers for the Shaw Brothers Film and TV studio.

Times were definitely a changing…and both entrepreneurs knew they wouldn’t be playing major roles in the new corporations. These industry titans were wise enough to know when to leave. Each had witnessed the ravages of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and they understood the arbitrary nature of China’s one-party rule. It was a world where policy changes for political aims ran roughshod over sound commercial business practice and long-term planning.

Mr Wu…..and beyond

In 2007, Raymond Chow sold his shareholding in Golden Harvest to Wu Kebo, the head of a mainland media business. Mr Wu is one of a new breed of overseas-trained Chinese entrepreneurs. The company now wore the awkward title “Orange Sky Golden Harvest.” Wu Kebo promised to bring back the banner years of Golden Harvest, with a slate of prestigious films to be produced in the next 12-18 months. It was to be an announcement he would trot out regularly in the coming years with the result there were hardly any films made. In the end, the figures speak for themselves: between 1990-2007, Golden Harvest produced and released approximately 120 feature films, and between 2007-2016, Orange Sky Golden Harvest produced and released one feature film, a comedy.

Since 2013, Orange Sky Golden Harvest (OSGH) has been badly affected by the slowdown of film exhibition in China (not a good time to be building cinemas). The latter mostly as a result of the CCP reducing the quota on Hollywood films being allowed into the Middle Kingdom, and a renewed emphasis on heavy censorship of all new releases. These party diktats had brought the once thriving commercial sector to a near standstill.

In 2017, the Dadi Group, China’s second largest cinema chain purchased all the OSGH theatres on the mainland. This left Wu Kebo’s company with a handful of cinemas in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. The long established Golden Village partnership also came to an end that year, when OSGH bought out the Australian partners in what had been an acrimonious business transaction.

With the recent poor performance of OSGH, one has to ask: Would OSGH be a better business if Raymond Chow had stayed on after the sale? Who really knows?! But, I suspect, Chow might offer a philosophical answer to such a question and that could be:”Where decline is part of the business cycle – so is renewal.”

In a way, this company has now gone full circle and is again a small player, but this time in the world’s fastest growing region. Whether OSGH has the talent and financial nouse to become once again a major entity in world cinema – is something we will have to just wait and see.

In his later years, when Raymond Chow might have paused to reflect upon his past and career, I’m sure there would have been much to be proud of in such a rich and fulfilled life.

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