Warner Bros to do joint deal

US stu­dio in talks with China Media Cap­i­tal to de­velop Chi­nese-lan­guage films in China

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By AMY HE in New York amyhe@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Warner Broth­ers, the stu­dio be­hind Grav­ity and In­ter­stel­lar, is in talks to part­ner with China Media Cap­i­tal to de­velop Chi­nese-lan­guage films for China, where a rapidly grow­ing box of­fice con­tin­ues to lure Hol­ly­wood stu­dios.

The joint ven­ture would be Warner Brother’s sec­ond ven­ture in China, af­ter part­ner­ing with China Film Group to pro­duce and dis­trib­ute movies.

“We con­firm that CMC is now in talks with WB to cre­ate a JV ( joint ven­ture). The talks have been go­ing well, but we can­not dis­close more de­tails at this stage,” a spokesper­son for China Media Cap­i­tal con­firmed to Va­ri­ety on Tues­day. Sources at Warner Bros in Los An­ge­les also con­firmed the part­ner­ship dis­cus­sions, Va­ri­ety said.

Phil Con­trino, vice-pres­i­dent and chief an­a­lyst of BoxOf­fice.com, said that film­mak­ers are try­ing to re­spond to de­mand from lo­cal au­di­ences for home­grown movies, as shown by the latest Chi­nese box of­fice hit Mon­sterHunt, which has earned $375 mil­lion in China since its July re­lease. The fan­tasy ad­ven­ture film has be­come the sec­ond­high­est gross­ing film at the Chi­nese box of­fice, out­ranked only by Furious7, the sev­enth film in the FastandFurious Hol­ly­wood fran­chise.

“I think Chi­nese film­mak­ers in gen­eral are still tap­ping into what the public there wants from their home­grown prod­ucts, and we’re still get­ting to a point where home­grown movies are start­ing to re­ally per­form close to what Hol­ly­wood movies are do­ing. That’s cru­cial. Ev­ery­body’s still kind of learn­ing, and fig­ur­ing it out as they go,” Con­trino said.

There have been in­creas­ing part­ner­ships be­tween Hol­ly­wood and China, with many US stu­dios col­lab­o­rat­ing with Chi­nese com­pa­nies in hopes that it will lead to film re­leases in China, which al­lows only 34 for­eign films re­leased a year.

Stan Rosen, a Chi­nese film ex­pert and pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia US-China In­sti­tute, said the com­bi­na­tion of the for­eign film quota and so-called black­out dates — pe­ri­ods dur­ing the year when only Chi­nese films are al­lowed to be re­leased, typ­i­cally around hol­i­days like the Lu­nar New Year and the sum­mer — means that Warner Bros’ plans to make Chi­ne­se­lan­guage films is a “bet­ter strat­egy” for the long term.

“The China mar­ket is on track to sur­pass last year’s mar­ket by Au­gust this year and it’s go­ing to be the big­gest mar­ket in the world by about 2018-2019, so it makes sense to make Chi­nese films for the China mar­ket. You can’t lose,” he said.

With the num­ber of movie screens in China in­creas­ing al­most five-fold be­tween 2010 and 2015 — from 5,000 to around 24,000 — mak­ing more movies for the Chi­nese au­di­ence will ben­e­fit Warner, he said.

“China Media Cap­i­tal has been very suc­cess­ful,” he added. “Warner is part­ner­ing with good peo­ple. A lot of de­tails are not yet known, but cer­tainly given the en­try in the China mar­ket and the in­crease in film screens, lo­cal movies are fa­vored.”

Last Oc­to­ber, Warner Bros part­nered with media com­pany Shang­hai Media Group, Chi­nese in­vest­ment fund CMC Cap­i­tal Part­ners and com­mu­ni­ca­tions group WPP to cre­ate a fund that in­vests in Chi­nese and in­ter­na­tional film, tele­vi­sion and live en­ter­tain­ment. It fo­cuses on Chi­nese-lan­guage pro­gram­ming that is dis­trib­uted in China and around the world, ac­cord­ing to Warner.

China Media Cap­i­tal, a state-backed en­tity, has another joint ven­ture deal with DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion SKG called Ori­en­tal DreamWorks. Ori­en­tal and DreamWorks are cur­rently work­ing on Kung Fu Panda3, the third in­stall­ment in the pop­u­lar an­i­ma­tion fran­chise, due for re­lease in Jan­uary.

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