Warner Bros to do joint deal
US studio in talks with China Media Capital to develop Chinese-language films in China
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.