Youku venture could usher in a new era in moviemaking
Popular online fiction is fast finding itsway onto the big screen thanks to growing interest from China’s online giantswhoarekeen tobecome more involved in the film industry.
China’s leading video streaming site Youku announced on Monday, at the Beijing International Film Festival, that it will adapt three popular online novels into feature films in collaboration withMopian.
Mopian is a startup that specializes in developing online literature into multiple media forms. It currently owns copyrights of more than 10 online novels. Their first joint production will be based on three popular online fantasy novels: Infinite Horror, The Romance of Dragon and Snake and The Sun God. Each e-book has been viewed more than 50 million times, according toYouku.
Youku’s interest in popular literature has also led to a collaboration with Du Zhe, a Reader’s Digest-like Chinese magazine best known for its emotionally engaging short stories. Their long-term partnership primarily involves adapting 300 such stories, selected from publications from the past 30 years, into feature films.
Since Youku established its moviemaking unit, Heyi Pictures, last year, it has been carefully presenting an image different from that of traditional filmmakers. Among its maiden strategies is the effort they are putting into directing itself toward “nurturing potential IPs”. IP or IntellectualProperty, is a term increasingly used by movie industry people, to refer to spinoffs in addition to the original movie, such as songs, dramas and cartoons, that could be developed for the market.
Youku’s maiden projects have includedForever Young, thedirectorial debut ofTVhost-turned directorHe Jiong. Itwasdevelopedfromapopular folk song sung byHe, and Joy Show, a movie version of Youku’s most-viewed Internet series of thesamename. Both are expected to premiere next year.
“With anticipation and respect Heyi Pictures welcomes more IPs on board, from which we hope to nurture some successful ventures,” says ZhuHuilong, CEO ofHeyi Pictures.
Last year, OldBoy: Enter the Dragon marked Youku’s first attempt to adapt what was once a popular online short video into a “big film” to be screened nationwide. The company has also enjoyed some cinematic success this year by jointly investing in Let’s Get Married, a star-studded adaptation of a namesake TV drama that’s been grossing well.
But Zhu believes the future concept of moviemaking will require them to target more than just cinemas. Part of Youku’s plan as an emerging filmmaker therefore involves nine films of regular length each year to be tailor-made for outof-cinema audiences, by which it means more than just Internet users.
As the result of Youku’s recent deal with movie channel CCTV 6, AirMedia and subway media operator Fundamental Films, these productions will be shown via TV and video systems carried by plane, train and subways. Each is expected to reach as many as 2 billion people, according to Youku.
The four companies initially plan to jointly invest a total of 30 million yuan into the nine projects. These movies will also serve as a chance to nurture a new generation of young directors who will enjoy a great deal of freedom in creation and expression, says Tang Ke, director of creation at CCTV 6. Tang says these films will be made to specifically cater to the tastes of post-1990 audiences.
“If any of them were particularly well-received,” Zhu with Youku says, “we will further invest to upgrade it into a feature film to be shown in cinemas as well.”
This is away to reach potential cinemaaudiencesandnurturetheminto real cinema goers, says Cheng Jiaqi, president of Fundamental Films.
“It’s also about directing the industry to see new opportunities. The profit of a movie in the future can come from many channels other than cinemas,” says Zhu.