Funny guy with serious plan

At 60, comedian Stephen Chow wants to crack the metaverse


See you in the metaverse

Last week, Warner Bros. Discovery announced that it has partnered with blockchain start-up Eluvio to launch the metaverse version of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Officially, the impending release is called “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Version) Web3 Movie Experience”. Along with a digital copy of the original movie from 2001, buyers can indulge themselves with an interactive navigation menu modelled on locations from the JRR Tolkien novel (such as the Shire and Rivendell) as well as a number of hidden AR (augmented reality) collectibles, which will are viewable on smartphones and possibly tradable in the future.

Such a Web3 experience sounds “an endeavour that makes less sense the more you hear about it”, tech news site The Verge suggested. Yet more conventional movie makers are ready to join this new iteration of internet adventuring.

Hong Kong actor-director Stephen Chow is showing that he is also keeping up with the times. The 60 year-old has never maintained a social media presence. That’s why his fans were shocked last week when Chow opened an Instagram account and announced in his first-ever post, and the only one so far, that he’s looking to venture into Web3.

In the post, which sees Chow write the words “talent wanted” in Chinese, he declared he will be looking for people familiar with Web3 and interested in “building a creative future” with him. To entice people to apply, he promises to take charge personally of the hiring process. He also offered a hashtag, #CreateWithStephen, for interested parties to tag him in their work.

Onlookers were initially unsure if the post was an elaborate hoax. Yet Hong Kong reporters quickly confirmed with Chow’s personal assistant that the Instagram account in question was indeed opened by the celebrity actor-director, who starred in many cult classics such as the 1994 hit From Beijing with Love and Shaolin Soccer in 2004.

According to Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily, Chow has been plotting his foray into Web3 for a while. Back in March during an online discussion session, Chow said he found it interesting that an NFT (non-fungible token) created by Spanish cartoonist Joan Cornella looked strikingly similar to the lead character in From Beijing with Love, which was a direct spoof of the James Bond films.

Chow then asked the audience which of his movie characters they would want to see most if he were to create NFTs himself. The question quickly gained traction online with more than 10,000 replies, with many suggesting that he should first produce a metaverse-themed movie akin to The Matrix or Ready Player One (made in 2018).

Chow hasn’t revealed what he is looking to do with NFTs, but many reckon he could follow in the footsteps of Taiwanese pop icon Jay Chou in releasing his own tokens. More recently, singer Wang Feng also published his latest album in the Web3 space.

At the moment, the easiest way to make money in Web3 is to create NFTs that are based on proprietary IP, much like Jay Chou’s Phanta Bear. However, the problem for Chow, says Entertainment Capital, is that he doesn’t actually own the intellectual property rights to his biggest films. For instance, the IP for his most memorable roles like The God of Cookery (1996) and King of Comedy (1999) is controlled by Hong Kong-listed Universe Entertainment.

Instead, the only IP Chow holds, through his production company Bingo Group, is his more recent directorial work such as Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons from 2013 and The Mermaid in 2016, which are much less well-known compared with his earlier movies. And as he doesn’t appear in any of them the collectible value may be lower.

“In other words, the only IP that is owned by Stephen Chow was all made during his ‘downhill stage,’ as some would say. The willingness of consumers to buy these NFTs is not going to be very high, and the prospects for them going up in value in the secondary market is also not very optimistic,” Entertainment Capital predicted. “That’s not to say Chow can’t develop his own branded Web3 products with this line-up, but it will require a lot of work and resources. That is undoubtedly more difficult for Chow and his Bingo Group, who are new to Web3.”

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