2014 Honorary Doctorate
Born in Hong Kong in 1927, Mr Raymond Chow fell in love with films as a child and became fascinated with filmmaking during his student days in Shanghai. When he returned to Hong Kong, his chance to work in films came when he became the second employee of Run Run Shaw’s new venture, Shaw Brothers Hong Kong Limited.
Mr Chow has over 50 years’ experience in the film industry. He founded the Golden Harvest Group in 1970 with partners Leonard Ho and Leung Fung, and has worked with many producers and directors who are now internationally renowned, such as Tsui Hark, John Woo, Mabel Cheung, Sammo Hung and Yuen Woo-ping. Up till his retirement in 2007, Mr Chow had produced over 800 films, and helped put Hong Kong cinema into the international spotlight through the films of Bruce Lee, the Hui brothers and Jackie Chan. In this way Mr Chow brought a great deal of international attention to his home town. Indeed, former US President Bill Clinton once said he first heard about Hong Kong through a Bruce Lee film.
In addition to Hong Kong films and international co-productions familiar to his Asian audience, Mr Chow also made Hollywood-style films starring international superstars such as Burt Reynolds, Charles Bronson, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett and Keanu Reeves. Curious as to how Hollywood achieved world dominance in commercial cinema, Mr Chow took a select team to Hollywood to find out. He went on to produce a total of 38 films in the Hollywood way, from financing to production and distribution. In the 1980s Mr Chow produced Cannonball Run, and in the 1990s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series of films, all of which broke box office records in the USA.
During that time, Mr Chow imported the new American concept of multiplex cinemas to Asia. Having opened the 10-screen Yishun Cinema in Singapore in 1992, Mr Chow soon added multiplexes in Hong Kong, Malaysia and China. A few years later, Mr Chow had smaller, luxuriously appointed, private-party-friendly screening rooms installed in his multiplexes to provide a truly deluxe movie- going experience.
Mr Chow pioneered other ideas in the Hong Kong film industry, creating a new studio system based on the major Hollywood studios’ mode of operation. He was the first filmmaker outside Mainland China to be invited to build cinemas there, as well as the first to sell film library rights in Hong Kong. A fan of modern technology, he dabbled with the concept of large-format cinema screens, such as IMAX, and synchronised moving cinema seats as early as the 1970s. He was fascinated with the possibilities of digital cinema, and in the mid-2000s, in his seventies, explored digitally transmitting a live Takarazuka performance from the Tokyo Takarazuka Gekijo into a Hong Kong cinema, a feat that, even today, has not yet been accomplished.
The film industry has honoured Mr Chow with numerous awards, including “International Showman of the Year” from the National Association of Theatre Owners of the United States, and the Golden Horse Award in Taiwan for his outstanding achievements, both in 1980, and the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the CineAsia 1996 film industry convention in Singapore. In the year of his retirement, the industry honoured Mr Chow with the “Visionary Award” at the CineAsia 2007 film industry convention in Macau, the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Hong Kong Film Awards and the “Ultimate Achievement Award for the Development of the Theatre Industry” from the Hong Kong Theatre Association. In recent years, Mr Chow was honoured with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the 5th Asian Film Awards, the “Special Appreciation Award” at the Tokyo International Film Festival 2012 and the “China Best Life Achievement Award” at the Huading Awards 2013.
International governments have also honoured Mr Chow with tributes. In addition to the Gold Bauhinia Star from the Government of HKSAR in 1998, he was also honoured in 1987 by Queen Elizabeth II of England with the Order of the British Empire, and in 1996 by the Emperor of Japan with the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Rosette.
Mr Chow is enjoying retirement: playing golf, rekindling his passions for bridge and go, catching up on reading and watching movies, and spending time with Felicia, his wife of 58 years, and his three grandchildren.