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Chinese cinema classics get a rebirth as games

First there was comic world legend Stan Lee claiming in July he would produce the "world's first" Chinese superhero.

Now the company that owns the largest back catalogue of Chinese cinematic classics says it wants to go one better and produce a whole stable of Chinese superheroes.

The Hong Kong-based Celestial Pictures group has announced it is expanding into the online gaming market and that it will plumb its stocks of some of Chinese cinema's greatest productions for inspiration.

First up has been the release this past week of the My Kingdom Game for the iPhone and iPod Touch, which has been made available for free on the company's website.

That game is based on an upcoming film - the 70 million yuan (7.6 million euros) budgeted actioner My Kingdom, which stars mainland Chinese idols Wu Chun and Han Geng and is set for release in September.

While Celestial has co-produced that epic, it owns outright 760 films from the legendary Shaw Brothers studio, famous for launching the careers of the likes of Jackie Chan, and the company says it has established a department specifically tasked with creating animated characters based on "100 heroes" from those films.

A company spokesman said the characters would be similar to Marvel comic stars Spiderman and the Hulk.

"We are creating a universe in which they all interact. It's like a Shaw universe. No one has seen this before," a Celestial spokesman told the South China Morning Post newspaper.

Celestial says it is currently working with a company in the United States as it devises both American and Asian-style animation for its games and that it hopes to release between one and five games each year.

Closer to its original business, Celestial is apparently also considering remakes of a selection of Shaw Brothers classics, among them Come Drink with Me, One-Armed Swordsman and Five Deadly Venoms.

The company is also exploring the world of high-definition formats - of the 760 Shaw Brothers titles Celestial remastered, 133 are now available in HK, and work is beginning on adding a further 217 films to that selection.