The Shaw Screen: A Preliminary Study - Shaw Story

Year Shaw Story
1896 Runje Shaw was born.
1898 Runde Shaw was born.*

*Some publications indicate that his year of birth was 1899.
1901 Runme Shaw was born.
1907 Run Run Shaw was born.
1924 Runme Shaw went to Singapore and Malaysia to pave way for Shaws' distribution business.**

**The year is recorded in accordance with the information extracted from Runme Shaw's interview with the National Archives of Singapore.
1925 The Shaw brothers founded Unique (Tianyi) Film Productions in Shanghai. Inaugural film: New Leaf/Li Di Cheng Fo
1928 Shanghai's Star (Mingxing), Great China, Minxin, Youlian, Shanghai, and Huaju formed Liuhe (United Six) Film Company to challenge Unique's dominance. Known in film history as the 'Liuhe Encirclement'.

Renje Shaw dispatched sixth brother Run Run to station in Singapore and Malaysia to assist Runme in establishing distribution and exhibition networks.***

***The official Shaw Organisation website states that Run Run Shaw arrived at Singapore in 1926. Most other findings, however, establish that he left for Singapore only after the 'Liuhe Encirclement'.
1931 Unique produced the first film with a soundtrack, The Nightclub Colours/Gechang Chunse, a breakthrough in Chinese cinematic technology.
1933 Unique collaborated with renowned Cantonese opera artist Sit Kok-sin to make Platinum Dragon/Bai Jinlong in Shanghai, the first Cantonese sound film.
1934 Runje Shaw established Unique (HK branch) at 42 Pak Tai Street, To Kwa Wan, Kowloon. Inaugural film: Mourning of the Chaste Tree Flower/Qi Jinghua (a Cantonese opera film)
1937 Unique (HK) was renamed Nanyang. Runde Shaw replaced Runje Shaw as studio boss.
1946 Runde Shaw became a shareholder of Great China Film Company and leased Nanyang Studio to Great China.
1950 Nanyang was renamed Shaw and Sons Ltd, and shifted its production focus from Cantonese to Mandarin films. Nanyang Studio was also renamed Shaw Studio.
1952 The Screen Voice Pictorial (HK edition), official publication of Shaw and Sons, was published.
1955 Shaws' Cantonese Film Group was formed.

The first Cantonese film produced under the Shaw banner was The Opera Boat in Singapore/Xingdao Hongchuan, shot on location in Singapore.
1957 Production of Love with an Alien/Yiguo Qingyuan, Shaw and Sons' first co-production with a Korean company; Nishimoto Tadashi (Chinese pseudonym He Lanshan) was cinematographer.

Run Run Shaw took over production business in HK.

Southern Screen, SB's official publication, was published.
1958 Shaw Brothers (HK) Ltd was founded with Run Run Shaw as President. Shaw bought a land in Clearwater Bay, Kowloon to build the Shaw Movie Town. Shaw & Sons switched to focus on distribution and cinema operations in Hong Kong.

Diau Charn/Diao Chan won five major awards at the 5th Asian Film Festival, including Best Actress (Linda Lin Dai) and Best Director (Li Han-hsiang).
1959 The Kingdom and the Beauty/Jiangshan Meiren won Best Picture award at the 6th Asian Film Festival.

Co-produced Three Dolls in Hong Kong/Xianggang San Xiaojie in Hong Kong with Japan's Toho.

Raymond Chow joined SB as publicity officer.
1961 The Southern Drama Group was founded with Ku Wen-chung as leader, providing acting training for Shaws' budding stars.

Shaw Studio began operation on 6 December.
1962 Yang Kwei Fei/Yangguifei (dir Li Hanxiang) won Grand Prix de la Commission Supérieure Technique du Cinéma Français at the 15th Cannes Film Festival for its achievement in colour cinematography.
1963 The Love Eterne/Liang Shanbo Yu Zhu Yingtai broke box office records in HK and Taiwan, lifting the curtain on the huangmei diao hit trend.

Li Han-hsiang left SB and founded Grand (Guolian) Motion Picture Company in Taiwan.
1966 King Hu's Come Drink with Me/Da Zuixia marked the beginning of the 'new wuxia' era in Hong Kong cinema.

Hong Kong Movie News, the second official publication of SB, was published.

America's Life magazine published a feature article on the Shaw Movie Town.
1967 One-Armed Swordsman/Du Bi Dao, starring Jimmy Wang Yu and directed by Chang Cheh, hit the million dollar mark at HK box office. It also steered the cinema to a violent, male-centred dominance which Chang termed yang gang (staunch masculinity).
1969 Mona Fong joined SB and worked in the purchasing department.
1970 Raymond Chow left SB.
1971 Co-founded with TVB the Shaw-HK-TVB Training Centre, replacing the Southern Drama Group.

SB issued shares and became a public-listed company.
1972 Li Han-hsiang returned to SB and made The Warlord/Da Junfa. TV star Michael Hui was chosen to play the title role.
1973 King Boxer/Tianxia Diyiquan, starring Lo Lieh, was released in the US and soon became a popular hit among western audiences.

Chor Yuen's The House of 72 Tenants/Qishi'erjia Fangke was a critical as well as box office success, reviving the declining Cantonese cinema.

Co-produced with Hammer Film Productions the horror film Dracula and the 7 Golden Vampires, starring John (David) Chiang, Shi Sze and Peter Cushing.

The Hongkong Shaw Foundation was founded to raise funds to support charity organisations, and set up scholarships and teacher training programmes.

Runde Shaw died.
1974 Michael Hui left SB.

Lui Kay founded Jinhe Film Company, a satellite company of SB.

Chang's Film Company went into production in Taiwan.

Run Run Shaw received the CBE.
1975 Run Run Shaw announced his HK$60 million investment in Taipan, a film adaptation of James Clavell's bestseller of the same title. Production commenced at Shaw Studio the following year.

Runje Shaw died on 17 February.
1978 SB invested US$16 million in Meteor (1979), a Hollywood production starring Sean Connery, Natalie Wood, and Henry Fonda.
1980 Run Run Shaw became the largest shareholder of TVB, heading the board of directors.
1982 Run Run Shaw invested in the sci-fi classic Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford.
1985 SB wound down its production. The company leased its circuits to Dickson Poon's D & B.

Runnme Shaw died on 2 March.
1986 Shaw Movie Town was leased to TVB.
1988 SB and TVB co-founded Cosmopolitan Film Productions Co Ltd, with Mona Fong in charge of the new company. Inaugural film: Mr Possessed/Zhuang Xie Xiansheng

TV City, located in Clearwater Bay, officially opened.
1999 Copyrights of over 700 SB films were sold to the Malaysian group Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd for HK$600 million. The consortium later set up Celestial Pictures Ltd in HK.
2001 Run Run Shaw and Mona Fong founded Film Power Co Ltd. Inaugural film: Martial Angels/Jue Se Shentou
2002 Run Run Shaw founded the 'Run Run Shaw Award' to honour scientists who have distinctive achievements in areas of mathematics, medical science and astronomy. The award, totalled at US$1 million, is considered the 'Nobel Prize of the East'. The first 'Run Run Shaw Award' will be held in 2004.

Celestial digitally re-mastered more than 700 SB films and releases them in VCD and DVD formats. Among them are classics such as The Kingdom and the Beauty/Jiangshan Meiren, Love Without End/Bu Liao Qing, The Love Eterne/Liang Shanbo Yu Zhu Yingtai, The Blood Brothers/Ci Ma, The Empress Dowager/Qing Guo Qing Cheng, etc. The library of films will be released in batches in the next few years.
2003 The new Tseung Kwan O TV City, a billion-dollar joint venture with China Star Entertainment Group, is to be completed in 2004. The new movietown will house a post-production centre, an administration building, studios, cinemas and exhibition halls. Mona Fong indicated that Shaws would resume film production after the completion.

Editor's Note:

This chronology aims to trace Shaw's development in Hong Kong. Therefore, activities of Shaw's predecessor Unique (Shanghai) are noted in brief, while Shaws' marks left in Southeast Asia and Taiwan are omitted. For more detailed discussions on Shaws' business in these two regions, please refer to the research papers presented in the 1st and 2nd Conferences on Shaw Brothers Enterprise (all papers are written in Chinese except the last one):

  • Chen Meiling, 'Shaw Brothers in Singapore, From the Twenties to Seventies' ('Shaoshi Xiongdi Zai Xingjiapo, Ershi Niandai Zhi Qishi Niandai')
  • Chen Meiling, 'The Fire-Bathing Phoenix: A Study of Shaw Brothers' Entertainment Enterprise and the Leisure and Entertainment of People in Singapore and Malaysia After WWII Based on Entertainment Magazine' ('Yu Huo Di Fenghuang: Cong "Yule" Kan Er Zhan Hou Shaoshi Xiongdi Di Yule Shiye Yu Xin Ma Renmin di Yule Xiaoqian')
  • Liu xiancheng, 'Shaw Brothers' Movies in Taiwan' ('Shaoshi Dianying Zai Taiwan')
  • Law Kar, 'Shaw Brothers' Cross-Boundary Development: 1920-1970' ('Shaoshi Xiongdi Di Kua Jie Fazhan: Yijiu Erling Zhi Yijiu Qiling Niandai')
  • Timothy White, 'Exactly the Same but Completely Different: Product Differentiation in the Singaporean Films of Shaw Brothers' Malay Film Productions and Cathay-Keris'

The 'Hong Kong Cinema Story' section sketches the development of film industry in Hong Kong; the 'Hong Kong Story' section traces the social and political development of the local community. Together these two sections provide the backdrop against Shaws' own evolution, and its interaction with the society and the time.


  • Cai Hongsheng, Song Jialing, Liu Guiqing (eds), Xianggan Dianying Bashi Nian (80 Years of Hong Kong Film), Beijing: Beijing Broadcasting Institute Press, 2000.
  • Chung, Po-yin Stephanie, 'The Industrial Evolution of a Fraternal Enterprise: The Shaw Brothers and the Shaw Organisation' in this volume.
  • Paul Fonoroff, Silver Light, A Pictorial Histroy of Hong Kong Cinema, 1920-1970, Hong Kong: Joint Publishing (HK) Co Ltd, 1997 (Chinese and English Versions)
  • The Hong Kong Filmography (Vols 1-4), Hong Kong, Hong Kong Film Archive, 1997-2003
  • Tang Kaijian, Xiao Guojian, Chen Rongjia (eds), Xianggang Liuqian Nian: Yuangu-Yijiu Jiuqi (6000 Years of Hong Kong: Ancient-1997), Hong Kong: Unicorn Books Ltd, 1998.
  • Teo, Stephen, Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions, London: BFI, 1997.
  • Yu Mo-wan, 'Shaw Brothers and Hong Kong Cinema' (Shaoshi Xiongdi Yu Xianggang Dianying'), research paper published in the Conference on Shaw Brothers Enterprise and Asian Urban Culture International Conference, Department of Chinese Studies, The National University of Singapore, 2001.
  • Yu Mo-wan, Xianggang Dianying Bashi Nian (Eighty Years of Hong Kong Cinema), Hong Kong: Regional Council, 1994.
  • Yu Mo-wan, Xianggang Dianying Shihua (Anecdotes of Hong Kong Cinema), Vols 1-5, Hong Kong: Sub-Culture Ltd, 1996-2001.
  • Zhan Youpeng, Lan Chao, Shao Yifu Zhuan (Run Run Shaw: A Biography), Hong Kong: Mingliu Publishing, 1997.


Southern Screen, Hong Kong , 1957-1979; Hong Kong Movie News, Hong Kong, 1966-1979


Official website of Shaw Organisation, Singapore at

Our special thanks to Law Kar, Stephanie Chung Po-yin and Lui Tai-lok for proofreading the frist draft and providing us with invaluable comments.

Collated by Grace Ng