Youku ven­ture could usher in a new era in moviemak­ing

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By HAN­BING­BIN han­bing­bin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

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