Earlier this month, China dropped the ban-hammer on film and TV actors who get caught using drugs or visiting prostitutes. The government’s official media watchdog said a recent spate of bad behavior among China’s creative class was making a bad impression on the young ‘uns, so anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the act would be banned from films, television, radio, advertising material and (probably) taking selfies.
The announcement contained no specific reference to gambling, but gambling was mentioned in a similar statement issued in August, when 16 film and TV companies publicly pledged not to hire gamblers, dope fiends and whoremongers. China has recently witnessed a string of minor celebs getting busted for drugs, including actor Jackie Chan’s son. South Korea endured its own celebrity vice scandal last year, when a number of K-pop stars and television personalities were caught gambling with international online betting sites.
CHINA STAR DOES THE HOKEY POKEY WITH FILM PRODUCTION COMPANY
Hong Kong-listed China Star Entertainment Ltd., which operates Macau’s Lan Kwai Fong hotel-casino under an SJM Holdings license, has a sideline in feature film production. In April, the company disposed of its China Star Movie Ltd. production company to Dance Star Group Ltd. for HKD 4.3m (US $554k). Earlier this month, China Star announced it was repurchasing the film unit for twice its April price, which China Star said represented the prodco’s net worth at the time. The prodco has been responsible for nearly 100 films, including the gangster epic Election and gambling flick Poker King.
The ownership hokey-pokey was necessary because China Star Entertainment chairman Heung Wah Keung also serves as chairman of China Star Cultural Media Group Ltd., the parent company of the Dance Star Group. Heung had announced the day before that he was stepping down from China Star Cultural’s board because other elements of his empire “require more of his dedication.” With Heung departing, China Star Cultural’s board suddenly decided they’d be better off shedding their cinematic appendage.
Heung’s life story would allegedly make a decent film. Heung’s name made the western media a couple years ago when Las Vegas Sands transferred $100k from one of its Vegas casinos to one in Macau on Heung’s behalf. In 1992, a US Senate subcommittee described Heung as an “office bearer” for the Sun Yee On triad. Heung has always denied such claims and has yet to be convicted of anything triad-related.
Heung holds a nearly one-third stake in China Star Entertainment, which announced in August it was sharpening its focus on Macau. In addition to the Lan Kwai Fong casino, China Star owns a piece of Ocho Socidedade Unipessoal Lda, a junket operator working a VIP room at SJM’s flagship Grand Lisboa property. China Star recently agreed to pay HKD 800m ($103m) for a chunk of the profit stream from junket operator Eight Elements Entertainment, which operates out of the Lan Kwai Fong.
Regardless of this tighter embrace with Macau, China Star insists it’s committed to continuing the “development of its already well established film production business.” Good idea, considering there’s suddenly a glut of unemployable acting talent out there that will be willing to work dirt cheap under a pseudonym.