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Blockbuster move by Chinese film company

Publication Date : 20-06-2012

 

National Film Capital Co Ltd, the Chinese government-backed entertainment firm, has revealed plans to invest US$300 million in 10 English-language movies, one of which will star a Chinese superhero being dubbed Ming: The Annihilator, the creation of iconic Spider-Man and Incredible Hulk creator Stan Lee.

Launched by China Film Foundation, National Film is a private equity group of limited partnerships involving investors from both home and abroad.

The Chinese company's Hollywood division - China Mainstream Media National Film Capital Hollywood Group Inc - based in Beverly Hills will produce and distribute the movies working alongside major Hollywood studios and independent moviemakers.

In addition to investing in filmmaking and the distribution of films, National Film also invests in the movie theatre business.

The announcement comes after figures confirmed a healthy growth in film viewing audiences in China, with box-office receipts growing 29 per cent year-on-year to 13.15 billion yuan ($2.07 billion) last year.

In the first quarter of this year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America, China moved ahead of Japan as the world's second- largest film market after the United States.

The number of movie screens in China also grew from 6,266 in 2010 to 9,296 last year, up 48.4 per cent, according to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

Around the world, the popularity for film remains, with combined ticket sales for the US and Canada, for instance, at $10.2 billion in 2011, down 4 per cent from $10.6 billion a year earlier, according to the Motion Picture Association.

Wang Guowei, National Film's president, said the timing is perfect to invest in the international movie industry.

"I think the export of film brands outweighs the export of Chinese culture and investment," he said, adding that he hopes the investment in the cooperative organisation would help build National Film's brand in movie production globally.

The boom in the Chinese film market has boosted cooperation between Chinese filmmakers and Hollywood, especially this year.

Beijing-based DMG Entertainment announced in April that it will work with the Walt Disney Co's subsidiary Marvel Studios in the making of the movie Iron Man 3.

And News Corp, the world's second-largest media conglomerate by revenue last year acquired a 19.9 per cent stake in Bona Film Group Ltd in May, one of China's largest film distributors.

It was followed by Dalian Wanda Group's $2.6 billion acquisition of the world's second-largest theatre chain - AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.

"The Chinese film industry needs Hollywood expertise and Hollywood needs the Chinese market," said Liu Yuan, co-chairman and president of China Mainstream.

"We are the perfect one-stop China turnkey partner for Hollywood."

Other experts agreed that investment in international film titles was solid business, and good for the country's development in the industry.

"Making movies that will appeal to the global audience is the weak point of the Chinese film industry, and that's exactly what makes this deal a worthwhile exploration in the sector for China," added Chen Shaofeng, deputy dean of the Institute for Cultural Industries at Peking University.

However, he cautioned that a successful working relationship between investors and the actual filmmakers remains crucial to the success of such ventures.

Co-production is certainly the way the industry is going at the moment, driven mainly by the slowing growth of the US film market and the burgeoning momentum of  China's film market, added Zhang Yanan, a senior analyst of media and entertainment at Zero2IPO Research Centre.

Within the 10-film deal, the involvement of Stan Lee - the acclaimed former president and chairman of Marvel Comics - is sure to attract huge attention.

Talking this week at Shanghai International Film Festival about the project, the 89-year-old Lee said "I love China and Chinese culture. I have been looking for the chance to cooperate with Chinese moviemakers and bring forward Chinese culture to the world.

Bloomberg contributed to this story.

 

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