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Lesson 57
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HK animation studio goes into liquidation

On February 5, Hong Kong-based Imagi Animation Studios announced liquidation of the company and layoff of its employees at an internal meeting, according to Hong Kong media.

Reportedly, the box office failure of Astro Boy, Imagi's latest production, is the major cause. Based on Japanese manga master Osamu Tezuka's creation, the animated feature cost about 500 million yuan (about US$ 73 million) to produce. Including the publicity fees, its total budget amounted to 820 million yuan (about US$120 million), but since the movie simultaneously hit global cinemas in late October 2009, it grossed merely 190 million yuan (about US$28 million) worldwide in two months' running time.

On the Chinese mainland, one of its major target markets, the movie just grossed over 40 million yuan (US$5.9 million) in total, much less than the box office forecast of 200 million yuan (about US$29 million). But on October 26, 2009, just three days after the movie was released in China, its Chinese distributor Enlight Pictures, announced its box office had reached 40 million yuan in China. The actual figure turned out to be 17 million yuan (about US$2.5 million), based on the official statistics. Later, Enlight Pictures made apologies to the public, admitting its figure was misleading.

Astro Boy is Imagi's second animated feature, following TMNT, adopted from Teenage Mutant Ninjia Turtles franchise. TMNT came out No. 1 on its opening weekend in U.S. with US$25.45 million. Although it grossed over US$95 million worldwide, it did not live up to the expectation. Meanwhile, Imagi got into disputes with its distributor Warner Brothers about profit allocation. These dramatically drove the company's share prices down.

Rumors had already been circulating about Imagi's financial troubles. In December 2009, it laid off over 100 employees, accounting for 25 percent of its staff.

Imagi Animation Studios was established by Imagi International Holdings Company Limited in 2000. The latter had been incorporated as Boto International Holding Limited in 1997. It adopted its current name in 2004. Imagi's headquarters are in Cai Wan, Hong Kong, they have a studio in Los Angeles and a satellite office in Tokyo.

(China.org.cn translated by Pang Li February 9, 2010)


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